Titans face early injury crisis
Gold Coast coach John Cartwright has ruled out sending an SOS to former Eels hooker Matt Keating as he struggles to cobble together a side just three weeks into the 2014 Telstra Premiership.
Desperate to bounce back after a poor display against the Wests Tigers on Sunday, Cartwright is facing an early injury crisis with Beau Falloon (knee) and Aidan Sezer (quad) both in doubt despite being named in the squad of 19 to take on the Raiders on Sunday evening.
With Matt Srama still a number of weeks away with a shoulder injury, Sam Irwin injuring an ankle playing in the Intrust Super Cup last weekend and now Falloon in doubt, Cartwright's stocks at No.9 fall solely to part-time hooker Paul Carter.
Ironically, Keating himself was injured playing for Burleigh Bears also last weekend but even if he had been fit to play Cartwright insisted that the veteran of 130 NRL games is not an option at this stage.
"That would be too big an ask on Matt," Cartwright said. "There are alternatives there. Young Matty Beddow has done a lot of training there in the pre-season as well so once we know who's available and who's not we'll come up with a decision.
"If Beau's out we've got Paul Carter there but we'll also have to come up with another alternative there in the hookers."
It's not just the hooking position where the Titans are all of a sudden looking short with Sezer in doubt and Albert Kelly missing training on Tuesday morning. While Kelly is expected to be fit to play, talented young half Christian Hazard is also currently sidelined with a hamstring strain, making Sezer's replacement – should the Titans need one – a tricky selection.
"They're key players in key positions so we won't really know the make-up of the side until Saturday," Cartwright said.
"[Five-eighth] is where we're not really sure. There are some options there. We've got William Zillman who could slot in there and Mead at fullback, or Ashley Harrison. We'll talk about that once we know who is available and sit down with the coaches and discuss that.
"In key positions, they're the hard ones to replace. You can't tend to stockpile players in those positions but they're short-term, so if we can get them back and all available soon we'll be happy."
There was more encouraging news amongst the forwards with Greg Bird (shoulder), Ryan James (hamstring) and Mark Minichiello (virus) all named and expected to be able to take their place in the side.
Cartwright did also make one unforced change with Brad Takairangi brought in at right centre for Maurice Blair in order to address worrying defensive deficiencies exposed by the Tigers on Sunday.
"We gave up some tries there on the weekend that we don't think we should have given up with some decisions that went wrong," Cartwright said.
"'Taka' played a lot of footy last year with Albert on that right edge so we're just pairing them up again."