Titans lock in Friend

LESS than three months after rejecting their final offer, Gold Coast hooker Nathan Friend has completed a dramatic U-turn by signing a new two-year deal with the club.<br><br>NRL.com can exclusively reveal the Titans will announce this afternoon that they have re-signed the crafty dummy-half; it comes after they failed to lure Australian hooker Cameron Smith and Wests Tigers’ Robbie Farah north earlier in the year.<br><br>Friend had said he would head elsewhere in 2009 and felt unwanted by Gold Coast officials but it’s apparent the two parties have quickly mended their relationship.<br><br>“It’s not that he ever wanted to leave or that we wanted to replace him,” chief executive Michael Searle said.<br><br>“I guess everyone gets a bit sensitive when your job is on the line.<br><br>“When we couldn’t come to terms with Nathan initially it was our job to make sure we had a quality replacement in line.<br><br>“I think we were always pretty straight with him, that if we had agreed to terms earlier we wouldn’t have had to look in the market.<br><br>“That’s what this new open negotiation market is going to force on us.<br><br>“I hope Nathan doesn’t have an issue with us still… but I don’t think he would.<br><br>“More importantly he has been very impressive for us yet again this season so we’re pleased to keep him.”<br><br>The Titans are still a long way from completing their 2010 roster with most interest centred on the future of dynamic utility Preston Campbell.<br><br>The 31-year-old has yet to comment on whether he will play beyond the current season and after two brilliant performances in the absence of halfback Scott Prince in the past fortnight he will now miss the next three weeks with a calf injury.<br><br>But Campbell’s manager Allan Gainey today hinted that his client was almost certain to continue on beyond 2009.<br><br>“I’d suggest that he will probably keep going,” Gainey said. “He has a long season ahead of him so he’ll make a decision whenever – but he will only play for the Titans. <br><br>“He is out for the next three weeks but that will freshen him up a bit. <br><br>“He could go for another four years if he wanted, or he might settle for two.”<br><br>The Gold Coast have eased the pressure on Campbell by setting money aside in the salary cap, admitting that the former Shark and Panther will have a contract available to him for as long as he wants to continue.<br><br>“I’ll never tap Preston on the shoulder,” Searle said. “If he wants to continue playing then he can do so for as long as he likes. <br><br>“He has earned that right.<br><br>“If he comes to us in July, August, September – even October – and says ‘I want to keep playing’ then that’s fine with us.<br><br>“I won’t allow the salary cap to force Preston out. He is like a great bottle of Grange – he just keeps getting better with age. The more he gets the ball, the better he is. <br><br>“I mean, he defended so well against Greg Inglis last week and just about out-played him.<br><br>“He broke a few tackles – it was good to see the old warrior beat the young pup.”<br><br>Searle said Campbell would have a job with the Titans for life once his rugby league career eventually wound down.<br><br>“He’ll forever be a Titans ambassador – he’ll have a job with us until he retires,” Searle said.<br><br>“He is one of those guys who has earned a lifetime in football.”<br><br>The Titans still have half a dozen players off contract at the end of the season including Brenton Bowen, Daniel Conn, Gavin Cooper, Matthew Cross, Brett Delaney, Michael Henderson and Ben Jeffery.