Titans veterans playing for future
Titans coach John Cartwright is facing a delicate juggling act with three of his most experienced forwards all playing with contract negotiations hanging over their heads.
While Ashley Harrison took matters into his own hands by announcing his retirement at the end of the season last week, Luke Bailey, Mark Minichiello and Matthew White are all without a contract for 2015 and beyond with Minichiello and White definitely determined to play on.
Coming back from a knee reconstruction White has been in superb form up front for the ladder-leading Titans and talks between the 29-year-old front-rower and the club have already begun to extend his stay on the Gold Coast.
Bailey will review whether his body can enter a 16th season in the NRL at about the midway point of the season while Minichiello is keen to play for a further two years and bring up 10 years of service at the club.
With the team flying high through six weeks it looms as an unwanted distraction but Cartwright says it is part of the continuing evolution of management of the playing roster.
"You're always talking to your senior players; it's a really tough period for club and player and it's never easy," Cartwright said.
"It's a big chunk of your life when you get towards the end of your career and a lot of thought has to go into it and with salary cap pressures that's where it can become hard on the club as well.
"It's a process that's got to be talked through and you always want to do the right thing by the player but you've also got to do the right thing by the club.
"We'll sit down with 'Mini' and his management and that's a salary cap thing as well. That will be a negotiation like we do with every player."
After 12 months on the sidelines due to an ACL injury he suffered in the 2013 pre-season, White's return to top form has been quicker than expected, averaging 73.4 metres and 22 tackles coming off the bench in each of the six games to date.
Such has been his form that he has attracted the interest of a number of other NRL clubs but Cartwright remains confident they can keep him on the Gold Coast.
"We're in negotiations with Matt. He is playing really good footy and when you do that you create some interest," he said.
"We know there's a little bit of interest out there but I know Matt wants to stay here but that's a negotiation process and we're going through that at the moment."
As for Bailey, Cartwright said his future is something that will be discussed in the coming weeks.
"It's very early in the season so it's hard to say," Cartwright said of an extension of Bailey's tenure as a Titan.
"I'm amazed that he's been able to do what he's done and to contemplate another season... He in his own mind will have to get through this year and then see how the body is."
The decision of Harrison to call time on a 15-year career at the end of 2014 frees up some space in the Titans salary cap but Cartwright said that it wasn't a decision that caught him by surprise.
"It came out all of a sudden but it was not something that really surprised us because we've had that conversation at the end of the year for the last couple of years," he said.
"'Harro' has been at that stage of his career for probably the last three years. A lot of things don't get reported and I've sat down with Harro at the end of every year and he's been the same every year. He's said that he'll start the season and see how he's feeling and I said to him, 'When it's time, you'll know.'"