Titans Mr Fix-It vows to do more
Transient Titan Brad Takairangi has vowed to help take the heat off halfback Daniel Mortimer as Gold Coast search for their first back-to-back victories since Round 6 on Saturday evening at Cbus Super Stadium.
Although the Titans are this week hosting the Eels, the home side are also going on the road as they endeavour to transfer their league-best away record to a dismal home record that is better only than the Sharks.
Shifting from place to place is nothing new for Takairangi who grew up a Cronulla Caringbah junior before stints with the Rabbitohs and Roosters and who has spent his five years in the NRL split between centre, five-eighth, lock and second row.
Through 19 rounds of the competition the Titans have been forced to use seven different combinations in the halves and only twice this season have they had the same half and five-eighth for at least three weeks in succession.
Only the last-placed Sharks have been forced to shuffle their six and seven more often and Takairangi knows that to keep their finals hopes alive he must shoulder more of the play-making responsibility alongside halfback Daniel Mortimer.
Takairangi has spent extra time on his kicking game during the week in order to provide Mortimer with another option at five-eighth after the former Rooster was forced to kick on 19 of the 21 occasions that the Titans put boot to ball.
In blustery conditions his 496 kicking metres were the most by a Titans player so far in 2014 and Takairangi knows he can't afford to go another game without contributing in that area for his team.
"I've got to help out. 'Morts' did all the kicking last week and I want to take it upon myself to help him out this week and give him just another option," said Takairangi, who has kicked just 10 times for a total of 116 metres so far this year. "We know that Parra will be gunning for him because he did most of the kicking last week so it's just another option to have on the left there.
"I grew up playing in the halves so it's nothing foreign to me. I was actually pretty excited to get an opportunity to get my hands on the ball a bit more. We had a bit of success out there with Dave [Taylor] on the left and hopefully we can do that again this week."
Off-contract at the end of the season with the Titans but eager to keep his young family on the Gold Coast, Takairangi has made 32 appearances for the Titans since making a late switch from the Roosters last February and cemented a position in the centres.
The acquisition of James Roberts mid-season and the potential for Dave Taylor to be used as a blockbusting centre again puts Takairangi's position in the team in question, particularly with five-eighth Aidan Sezer on track to return from injury in the next fortnight.
But for now he is tasked with keeping the finals hopes alive for the Titans and potentially ending those of the Eels, the club with which his father Louis played back in 1987.
It was a first grade career consisting of only three games where Takairangi Snr shared the rugby league stage with Peter Sterling, Eric Grothe, Steve Ella and Bob Lindner but it was local A Grade footy from where Brad drew his inspiration.
"I actually started off as a soccer player and then when I was eight – my dad played for Parra so he always wanted me to end up playing rugby league. So I played that when I was eight and went pretty good at it," said the 25-year-old.
"He only played a few games before he got himself into a bit of trouble I think, I don't really know. He kept me in line; I knew not to do the wrong thing. But he's definitely an influence. He always calls me and he'll be really honest with me. If I had a useless game he'll be upfront with me and make sure I know where I need to be better and he keeps me in line by not letting me get too comfortable, he's always good like that.
"I used to watch him play A Grade when he was a bit older and he was an inspiration, just to see how he played. He was like a big, strong fella and used to smash people and it definitely inspired me to try and replicate that."
At the 2013 Rugby League World Cup Takairangi was one of only a handful of players in the Cook Islands team with significant NRL experience and thus had to adopt a more senior role.
With young talent such as Dylan Napa, Sam Mataora, Tupou Sopoaga and Chris Taripo in the squad, Takairangi helped the Cook Islands to record their first World Cup win over Wales and narrow losses to the USA and Tonga, an experience he credits with his development as a leader at the Titans.
"When I got into camp with the Cook Islands I was probably one of the most senior players with how many games I'd played and I enjoyed that role where some of the boys were asking questions and just helping the younger boys," he said.
"We had a few under-20s players who were pretty new to it and it definitely gave me a lot more confidence. I went there playing five-eighth and then I changed to the centres and it definitely gave me confidence to know that people were looking up to me at the time."