Up Front: Titans surprise as top Qld team
I’d love to see all three Queensland teams – Brisbane, the Gold Coast and North Queensland – make the finals this season, but after four rounds that is already looking like a big assignment given that the form of some of the other teams has been so impressive.
The Roosters have surprised a few people with the quality of football they’ve been playing the past few weeks; Manly are looking strong as they usually do; and Melbourne have continued on from where they left off last year. So although it’s possible for the Queenslanders, it could be a tough ask given the slow starts from the Broncos and Cowboys in particular.
The exception has been the Gold Coast, who have been superb during the opening rounds. There were always going to be question marks on the Titans this year with the absence of Scott Prince, but what they’ve found instead is a great combination between their two young halves Aidan Sezer and Albert Kelly. If anything, they seem to have relished the new opportunity – which is often the case when you get young players who have previously had to play second fiddle. When they get the opportunity, they take it with both hands.
What the halves are doing particularly well is directing the team behind that big forward pack, which has been able to create some fantastic momentum for them to play off.
The Titans’ defence has also caught my eye. They have always had quality in their team but have often lacked something, whereas this year there seems to be more starch in their defensive work - and that has very much been the case in their performances.
One of the greatest things the Titans have done this year is make Nate Myles and Greg Bird co-captains. That’s great recognition of their standing in the team and the influence they have in the playing group. From the looks of it, their own performances have really benefited too from having that responsibility.
Bird has been fantastic. His form since he went to the Gold Coast [in 2010] has been tremendous and I think it’s been a very settling thing for him and his footballing life, both on and off the field. He looks like he is comfortable and really enjoying his football. When he does that, it is pretty scary what he can do on a football field. He can be very influential in the Gold Coast’s fortunes.
On the other hand, their opponents this weekend Brisbane are at that point where they really need to start winning some games or risk being left behind. I try not to judge any side too much at this stage of the season, but from what I’ve seen they really seem to be lacking in confidence. When they are playing assured footy and spin the ball to their outside men they are still causing some headaches, so I think the key for them is to start to string a few wins together for their self-belief more than anything else.
With Scott Prince coming into the team they still need to work on their combinations. They will grow and develop as the season progresses but because it’s been such a fast start to the season you can’t afford to be off your game for too long.
It’s a shame about the Josh Dugan situation because I think the Broncos could really do with another outside back to assist Justin Hodges, and maybe another big man in the forward pack too. All in all, it’s still a very talented team on paper – but as the year goes on they’ll have to look at a bit of recruitment.
North Queensland have been the most disappointing of the three Queensland teams for mine so far in 2013. Of all the sides in the competition, the Cowboys were my pick as the team that would stand out. They’ve surprised me in the three consecutive losses that they’ve had – especially with their roster. I expected big things from them. It will be interesting to see if they can rebound from this and get back to the type of football a squad of this quality should be playing week in, week out.
The amount of mistakes they’ve been making hasn’t helped their cause at all. All of the dropped ball [12 errors a game – third most in the comp] and the penalties they’ve conceded have made it particularly difficult for them. When they do complete their sets and get into the grind they’ve got the forward power and the strike power out wide to really hurt teams, but they haven’t been giving themselves a chance with all the mistakes.
I realise they’ve had to travel a bit during the opening rounds but I don’t think that’s an excuse. They should be used to that as a group by now and there are other teams that travel a lot too. You can’t deny they’ve got an amazing roster and should be doing a lot better than they are.
As I said, it’s still early days and I expect to see a lot of improvement from both the Broncos and Cowboys over the coming weeks. But they need to start winning games soon or they will quickly find their seasons slipping away.