Harrison happy with shift to six
He took down two representative five-eighths when he was shifted to the No.6 jersey last season but Titans veteran Ashley Harrison is wary of a young Canberra stand-off still learning the ropes.
Harrison has been shifted to the relatively unfamiliar position of five-eighth for Sunday's clash with the Raiders in Canberra after regular No.6 Aidan Sezer was ruled out with a quadricep injury, marking just the 30th time he has started there in his 268-game career to date.
Jack Wighton had a scratchy start to his career as an NRL No.6 in Canberra's Round 1 loss to North Queensland but bounced back to play a key role in his side's upset win over the Knights last Sunday and has the full confidence of coach Ricky Stuart.
Marking up against Benji Marshall, Josh Reynolds and Johnathan Thurston in consecutive weeks towards the back-end of last season, Harrison helped the Titans to wins over the Tigers and Bulldogs and is excited at the prospect of a temporary shift back to five-eighth.
"I had a couple of runs there last year and we ended up getting a couple of wins so we'll simplify it a lot with me at six, hopefully roll through our sets and if we do that we know we'll be able to put pressure on," Harrison said. "If we can't do that, we all saw what happened on the weekend," he added, referencing Gold Coast's 42-12 loss to the Tigers.
"I'll try and straighten the defence up a bit and run the ball so nothing too much changes for me. I've just got to be at different parts of the field at different times but I went through that last year and felt comfortable and looking forward to the challenge.
"I do enjoy it actually. It's a different challenge for me and a different role so looking forward to preparing. I've got one more training session to get under my belt and then get down to Canberra and give it a crack."
With youngster Christian Hazard on the injured list and Beau Henry making his comeback from a knee reconstruction for Tweed Heads in the Intrust Super Cup this weekend, coach John Cartwright was limited in the availability of back-up halves.
Co-captain Greg Bird has played plenty of five-eighth at club and representative level over the years and although the loss of Sezer puts an enormous strain on those responsible for kicking in general play – not to mention goal-kicking – Harrison's teammates have every faith that he's the man for the job.
"Harro's done it before; he's played in the six before," said Mark Minichiello, who will return a couple of kilograms lighter having missed last Sunday's loss with a virus that stripped his frame of four kilograms in total.
"There are a few guys there that are pushing him but he'll be fine. He trained out here really well today, we're just getting used to those combinations now and he'll be solid like he is every week. He's good defensively and he'll know what to do in attack."
Harrison conceded that the Titans may have been guilty of taking the Wests Tigers too lightly last Sunday and won't fall into a similar trap against a Raiders team boasting a big pack of forwards and exhilarating young backs in Anthony Milford and Jack Wighton.
"We'll have a look at [Wighton] today and tomorrow and see what he does for them but they're pretty strong across the park," Harrison said. "They've got some young kids in there who are going great and they'll be a handful, that's for sure."