2011 Season Preview: Gold Coast Titans

YOU get the feeling the time has come for the Gold Coast team to cash in on their wonderful set up since inception in 2007. The first two years were promising without finals success but the past two seasons have seen the team earn home finals as top-four finishers. In 2009 the Titans went out the back door but in 2010 they were just one win away from a grand final berth. With a similar side in 2011, the Titans are capable of further success – but their experienced forward pack is ageing and if they don’t make the final step soon they might not for some time.

Right now they have a great blend of experience and youth and if the coaching staff can get them to gel they are more than capable of creating history as the first title team from the Gold Coast.

In a boost to their preparations, John Cartwright saw his coaching contract extended through 2016. Such confidence and continuity will work wonders for them. But will it come this year?

How They’ll Play It… Off the back of their workhorse pack of forwards and the creativity of halfback Scott Prince.

Prince directs traffic better than most and he will push his forwards through the ruck, urging them to do so with quick-play-the-balls so he can target tiring opposition forwards. As they tire, the opposition backs will compress in to help defend – and then Prince can unleash the pacemen of the Titans backline. With William Zillman slated to play fullback and the likes of David Mead and Kevin Gordon on the wings, the Titans have speed to burn.

They’ll need Jordan Rankin to provide the link to the centres, likely to comprise Steve Michaels and Joseph Tomane. This pair will need to stay composed and play above their experience levels. Rankin’s year will have a huge say in the composition of the team; if he is a success it will allow them to leave Greg Bird in the pack.

With Preston Campbell set to be a ‘super sub’ the Titans will also look to lift the tempo of games when he comes on. Either playing as a hooker, or in the halves, or simply a floater around the field, Campbell will be the x-factor the team relies on.  

Expect Plenty From… Jordan Rankin. The 19-year-old prodigy, who played an NRL match as a 17-year-old, is finally slated to make the move into the top grade on a more permanent basis. Rankin has the chance to become the five-eighth outside Prince following Mat Rogers’ retirement and word is he was making a real go of it at pre-season training sessions.

The Titans will give him every chance but if he fails to take his opportunity they can turn to recruit Luke Capewell, Campbell or even Bird.

Another to expect more from is Zillman. With the fullback jersey now his on a regular basis this emerging Queenslander is set to take the NRL by storm.

They’re Going To Really Miss… The Titans haven’t lost a whole lot of firepower but they will certainly miss Mat Rogers’ maturity and consistency in the No.6. His experience outside Prince was so valuable. Plus, the new options in Rankin or even Capewell will be responsible for a very young backline. Youth can bring great enthusiasm but when the chips are down and a game is in the balance, invariably experience wins out.

Also, Rogers was the standout offloading back last year (27); they need to find a way of maintaining that fluidity out wide or good passages will amount to nothing.

Time To Stand Up… Steve Michaels. After coming over from the Broncos mid-season last year Michaels no longer has the excuse of getting used to the Titans’ way of life.

Coach Cartwright is a fan of the centre but he needs to repay the faith by getting back to the form he showed as a rookie back in 2006-07. In those days Michaels averaged more than 100 metres a match. In 2007 he tallied 16 line-breaks and 10 tries from more than 20 games – but last season he managed just two line-breaks and four tries in nine games. He also dropped his average to 72 metres gained.

Michaels’ big mission is to stand up defensively (two misses a game in nine appearances in 2010), as the Titans will most certainly be targeted out wide where they lack experience.

Coach Watch… John Cartwright’s job at the Titans is one of the safest in the NRL. It would take an extremely poor season indeed, or some internal bickering, for the dogs to bark loud enough to see this mentor gone. It won’t happen.

They’ll Be Boosted By… The Titans haven’t really recruited much this season although Luke Capewell gives them some depth at five-eighth and centre. The team will be boosted by Preston Campbell’s move to the bench, which should give them another upbeat attacking dynamic.  

Predicted Finish…The Titans are surprisingly well down the list in the early betting markets ($21), perhaps because they will start the year without injured duo Nathan Friend and Anthony Laffranchi. But if their backs can get some sort of cohesion going they are capable of the finals again.

We're just wary of some mental letdown after the success of the past few years. With that in mind we are with the bookies and have them pencilled in at 11th.

Toyota Cup… If Rankin doesn’t play NRL he will spearhead the Titans’ TC squad.

Another kid with potential NRL game time coming his way is hooker Matt Srama. If these two are on board, the team could easily improve on last year’s eighth-place finish.

Gains… Luke Capewell (Rabbitohs), Sam Martin (Storm), Joe Vickery (Dragons).

Losses... Jordan Atkins (Eels), Selesi Berdie (released), Marshall Chalk (released), Aaron Cannings (released), Josh Graham (released), Mat Rogers (retired), Ryan Tongia (Sharks), Dayne Weston (Panthers).