HOME RECORD: 11 wins, 1 loss (=1st)
AWAY RECORD: 5 wins, 7 losses (=6th)
Lost 40-32 v Broncos & Lost 27-2 v Eels to finish sixth.
BEST WINNING STREAK: 4 (rounds 3-6, 11-16 and 22-25; byes rd 12 and 15)
PLAYERS USED: 27
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Nathan Friend
TRIES SCORED (After 26 rounds): 89 (=9th)
TRIES CONCEDED (After 26 rounds): 85 (8th fewest)
History was made on the Gold Coast as the Titans made their very first finals series after a wonderfully consistent regular season before a poor finish saw them crash and burn when it really mattered.
The Titans looked strong coming into the playoffs, winning 10 of 13 matches including four in a row before the final-round clash at Brookvale burst their bubble and sent their momentum south.
On a night of no consequence for their ladder position, the Titans were smashed 38-4 by the Sea Eagles in Round 26 but the indifferent performance led the club into a scratchy first-up final against Brisbane and they were then bundled out of contention by a rampant Parramatta.
It was a real shame for most fans’ “second-favourite team”, who entertained with some flashy football. But at the end of the day they didn't have the grit needed for the finals.
Where They Excelled… The Titans were experts at attacking up the middle of the ruck, constantly spearing in behind the markers and catching out lazy defenders. The team scored more tries up the middle of the park than any other NRL side as Anthony Laffranchi and co terrorised defenders and the speed and elusiveness of the likes of Preston Campbell and Scott Prince bamboozled many an opposition prop.
The Gold Coast also provided plenty of long-range tries with their young wingers in Kevin Gordon and David Mead amongst some of the more exciting players in the NRL.
Where They Struggled… Discipline. The Titans were the third-most penalised team in the NRL and it constantly haunted them in matches. The bad relationship with the referees came to a head in their first final against Brisbane when coach John Cartwright was fined $10,000 for approaching the officials in the tunnel at halftime, apparently upset with what he perceived to be a different style of refereeing for the finals.
The team struggled in size as well. When the Broncos’ big monsters came to play in the finals, the smaller Titans couldn't match it. The team still struggled a little away from home but were much better than their first few seasons.
Missing In Action… Injuries weren't a factor for the Titans, with most stars playing throughout the year. Mat Rogers missed a few matches here and there as did Ashley Harrison but the club covered for their loss without much trouble and the team was full-strength in the finals.
William Zillman had an enforced four-week holiday for biting South Sydney back Jamie Simpson, something he strenuously denied.
Turning Point… The heavy loss to the Sea Eagles in Round 26 was not good for the Titans, even though they were guaranteed to finish third. The softness shown in defence was enough to give other teams great confidence and the Broncos, who had won five on the trot coming into the finals, took advantage.
Nerves also obviously played a part in the first final, a game the Titans had to prevail in if they were to have any chance of winning a title. The Broncos scored two tries from intercepts and another two from fairly innocuous kicks and while the Gold Coast battled valiantly to get back into the match, the small lapses killed them.
In terms of positivity, the turning point which saw the Titans make the finals for the first time was luck with injury and the ability to at least win the odd game away.
Best Games… The Titans did have some great results in 2009, which really started with back-to-back away victories in Rounds 4 and 5. While they had won their first two home matches as expected and lost to the Dragons in Wollongong up to that point, not many were expecting the Titans to come back from the Melbourne-Townsville road trip with two wins, but they did just that.
First, the Titans played clinical football to knock off Melbourne 18-6 before grinding away a 14-10 win against the Cowboys, proving to all contenders they were serious in 2009. Other good games of note were the Round 13, 28-24 win over a hot Dragons outfit, the Round 20, 34-18 towelling up of Brisbane, and the 36-24 win over a desperate Wests Tigers in Round 25, their last win of the year.
Worst Games… The squad would probably nominate their two finals performances and the last regular season game. It was the first time the side had lost three in a row all year and started with the Round 26, 38-4 loss to Manly which was followed by the 40-32 loss to Brisbane and was rounded off by their elimination with a 27-2 loss to the Eels.
Against Manly they were poor, against Brisbane they were inconsistent and against the Eels they were just outgunned.
Other earlier season losses to Penrith (34-20, Round 7) and the Cowboys (34-18, Round 21) were the only other real blips on their radar.
Hold Your Head High… The Titans’ big names Scott Prince (24 try assists and 20 line-break assists), Mat Rogers (11 tries, nine try assists), Luke Bailey (team-high average 16.5 runs and 131 metres) and Preston Campbell (team-high 94 tackle breaks) had some solid consistent performances throughout the year while hooker Nathan Friend was mostly impressive and touched the ball a staggering 2950 times – the most by any player in the comp.
Young wingers David Mead (eight tries in 14 games) and Kevin Gordon (13 tries) proved to be exciting at times. The entire squad acquitted themselves well; they just didn't quite have the talent to take the next step.
And the Titans’ 21.1 points average was a record for any Gold Coast side.
Coach John Cartwright says… “We couldn't have been happier with our season proper, finishing one win from the top. Each year you look to improve on the year prior and we did that, we improved in all aspects of our football and showed we can compete with the best.
“The semi-finals though were very disappointing. We had our chances in the Brisbane game and just couldn't take them and then we came up against a red-hot Parramatta and were beaten which made for a hard end to the year. But we will build on from this.”
Conclusion… The Titans’ fans and players are no doubt still hurting following their exit from the finals in straight sets but once the dust settles they should be proud their team made not only the finals but finished top four in the regular season.
They will be better for the experience and if some of the young talent matures even further, they will remain a contender for several years to come.