Carter firms as Titans No.9
Rookie recruit Paul Carter will be given a third and final opportunity to press his claims as the Titans first-choice hooker when he is selected in a near full-strength team for Saturday night's trial against the Cowboys in Toowoomba.
Gold Coast coach John Cartwright will name his side on Wednesday morning and told NRL.com that it is unlikely anyone outside of the squad of 22 to face the Cowboys will come into consideration for Round 1, effectively ruling co-captain Nate Myles out of the season opener against the Sharks in Sydney.
With Matt Srama still working his way back following off-season shoulder surgery and Beau Falloon and Sam Irwin yet to feature in either the trial against the Warriors or the Auckland Nines, part-time No.9 Carter has gotten the jump on the competition.
The 21-year-old back-rower doesn't even feature in the primary section of the Titans' pages in the official NRL Media Guide but veteran Titan Mark Minichiello said he was impressive during the club's two weeks in New Zealand.
"He was great for us. We've had a few injuries among our hookers," Minichiello said. "Matty Srama won't be right for the start and Beau Falloon's had a hamstring injury so that hooking spot is really up for grabs at the moment and he showed some good form in the Nines and in the trial. That's a heavily contested position."
Carter scored tries in both the trial and the Nines with powerful charges out of dummy-half from 10 metres out from the tryline and his aggressive nature in defence is perfectly suited for a career spent in the middle of the ruck.
With time fast running out, Cartwright told NRL.com that Carter is now a genuine chance to start at hooker in Round 1 in what would be his NRL debut but that they will need to start the season with a second hooking option on the bench.
"He'll be a chance. He played really well in the trial in patches and again in the Nines," Cartwright said.
"He hasn't played first grade before and he's got a few rough edges there but he's very aggressive and he's a natural footballer. It's just experience now that will improve him.
"He's in a tough position to play when you haven't played a lot of football there, especially at NRL level. It's probably the most physically demanding spot on the field so we'll have to have back-up there regardless of who plays in the No.9 or off the bench.
"Beauy Falloon hasn't played any football and neither has Sam Irwin so we're going to have to have back-up off the bench whoever gets the gig."
Despite missing the trial and Auckland Nines with a hamstring injury, Titans five-eighth Aidan Sezer told the media that he expects to reprise his halves combination with Albert Kelly and play in the club's final trial before the start of the regular season, with Ryan James and David Taylor also expected to be passed fit to play.
"There will be no one outside of that squad I don't think that will come into line for the first game so we'll pick as strong a side as we can," Cartwright said.