Season Preview: Gold Coast Titans
THE Titans could well live up to their name in 2010 thanks to an astute off-season buy – but it remains to be seen if last year’s meek finals exit has left any scars. <br><br>Those on the holiday strip have good reason to be optimistic this pre-season as the side hasn’t lost any irreplaceable talent, the players are preparing in a new state-of-the-art training facility, and Greg Bird should complement a very impressive looking roster. <br><br>They are near unbeatable at home and went a little way to learning how to win on the road in 2009, so barring major injuries this is one team to keep an eye on. <br><br><b>Their Keys To Success…</b> The Titans know how to play to their strengths. Halfback Scott Prince has his forwards rolling through the middle of the park, with quick play-the-balls tiring the opposition forwards.<br> Then, when the time is right, he unleashes his speedsters out wide… and the tries come. <br><br>The Titans also play off the cuff with the best of them, thanks to Preston Campbell’s astute ability to find a hole when there appears to be none. Now, with the addition of Bird, the Titans have a second option in attack, which should free up Prince to be even more devastating. Bird can play before and after the line, making him super dangerous. And with the defence now having to watch both halves and the effervescent Campbell, the Titans have a triple threat of playmakers. <br><br>Another key to the Titans’ success will be in the ability of the young outside backs to maintain their improvement. Youth can be devastating in the NRL. The free-spirited youth provide pace and raw skill, plus the unknown; but conversely they also lack consistency and experience and as such can be a liability. <br><br>The Titans’ outside backs – the likes of Esi Tonga, David Mead and Kevin Gordon – have huge responsibility to pull their weight, or the good work done by others could become undone. <br><br><b>Expect Plenty From…</b> Will Matthews. After nine games in 2008 and 14 more in 2009 the time has come for the 21-year-old forward to make a name for himself. <br><br>Blessed with raw talent, Matthews is a workhorse-style player who can slot anywhere in the pack. He tackles with venom and has an offload in his game, although he holstered it for most of last season. With a bit more confidence and a little bit of poetic licence, Matthews could be set for a big year off the Titans’ bench. <br><br><b>They’re Really Going To Miss…</b>The Titans haven’t really lost much talent with just Chris Walker, Brett Delaney and Daniel Conn moving on. All three are reasonable players but not irreplaceable. <br><br>What they might not miss, but wish they could, is the presence of scandal-hunting journalists who for the first part at least will be watching Greg Bird very closely. <br><br><b>Time To Stand Up…</b> The Gold Coast front-rowers need to stand up and be counted. Luke Bailey gets a pass mark here but his fellow bookends need to toughen up and put to bed the notion they are a small and soft side. <br><br>Michael Henderson, Aaron Cannings, Matt White, Bodene Thompson, Will Matthews and Brad Meyers all need to provide some backbone to give the Titans the extra space their halves and outside backs crave. <br><br>Come on fellas: it must be a little off-putting to be taken so lightly… how much longer do you want other teams feeling confident of taking you on up the guts?<br><br><b>Coach Watch…</b> John Cartwright basically has the keys to the city up on the Gold Coast and unless the side forgets how to win his job is safer than Fort Knox. <br><br>Cartwright is a progressive coach who spots trends in the game and adjusts accordingly… but he still needs to find a way to make up for his teams lack of size.<br><br><b>They’re All The Better For…</b> Greg Bird. Love him or hate him, Bird will be a massive advantage to this side. <br><br>As we’ve said, Bird gives the Titans the luxury of another ballplayer, but one who can bust through defenders as well as go around them or push others into holes by drawing the opposition his way. <br><br>The side now has all the ingredients for success so the pressure is on to make the most of it. <br><br>Premierships are hard to come by but 2010 represents a golden opportunity. <br><b><br>Predicted Finish…</b> Top Three. The Titans are setting up for a stellar season and with some players getting towards to end of their career this is the season to make the most of their roster. Definite premiership credentials. Get on before their price drops!<br><br><b>Toyota Cup…</b> The Titans’ under-20s shape up nicely, with some returning stars looking to stand out like halfback Jordan Rankin and forward Ryan James who both excelled for the Australian Schoolboys last season. But they know they must improve across the board or face another tough year. The side finished 14th in 2009 and needs to stiffen up their defence considerably to compete with the big guns.