5 burning questions: Titans
The 2014 season witnessed dramatic change at the Gold Coast Titans but what needs to happen on the field to return to the finals for the first time in four years?
1. What does the future hold for Albert Kelly?
After a month of the 2014 season Albert Kelly would have been figuring prominently in Dally M voting but by the time Neil Henry took over from John Cartwright after Round 22 the mercurial playmaker's future appeared unclear. Dogged by injuries throughout 2014 stemming from a leg fracture suffered in Round 8, Kelly's absence saw the Titans lure Daniel Mortimer from the Roosters with the promise of the No.7 jersey. With Aidan Sezer entrenched in the five-eighth position and Henry known to favour those who show the greatest commitment on the training paddock, Kelly's place in the squad could well be determined by the end of pre-season training.
2. Will Dave Taylor ever grow up enough to become a leader?
With Ashley Harrison, Luke Bailey and Mark Minichiello all leaving the Titans, Dave Taylor knows there is a need for other players to show their leadership qualities; the question is whether the 'Coal Train' possesses them. Although restricted by a calf injury, Taylor turned out as fit as he has ever been in 2014 and was rewarded with a Queensland call-up, a temporary shift to the centres seemingly bringing out the best in the big fella. But it is the example he sets at training that will most impact the stock of young back-rowers at the club, and it remains to be seen whether he can finally establish himself as one of the game's superstars. He'd rather kick field goals from 40 metres than run 400s but in order to realise his enormous potential now is the time for sacrifice.
3. How will the temporary accommodation at The Southport School impact on their preparations throughout 2015?
The Centre of Excellence will soon be but a blight on the Titans' past but until the new base is ready at Coomera on the northern end of the Gold Coast, the club will be operating out of the Gold Coast City Council offices and training at the esteemed The Southport School for 2015. Amongst the most prestigious private schools in Queensland, the TSS surroundings will likely excite the squad when they gather to start the pre-season on November 3 and will help to create a fresh start under Neil Henry. But without a place to call their very own, will the players see it as a temporary inconvenience or a return to the formative years of the club where hard work was preferred over comfort?
4. Will a hard-nosed approach by Neil Henry deliver results or create player unrest?
There was a knee injury that was troubling him but Neil Henry's insistence on not playing winger Kevin Gordon in the final weeks of the season are the best indication yet that there will be no favouritism shown on his watch. One of the criticisms under John Cartwright was that players weren't fighting for their place in the team on a weekly basis but that is all set to change under Henry. He has added Terry Matterson and Rohan Smith to his coaching staff and let Trevor Gillmeister go and players are already on notice that any sense of complacency will be knocked out of them over summer. Those who don't respond may be on the lookout for a new club sooner rather than later.
5. Will the club be in a position to land a high-profile star that they so desperately need in order to bring the crowds back to Cbus Super Stadium?
The Titans have endured well-documented financial difficulties in recent years and despite the retirements of Luke Bailey and Ashley Harrison, the departure of Jamal Idris at the start of 2014 and Mark Minichiello's move to the UK, they have not been in a position to lure a big name to the Gold Coast for 2015. It is clear that Henry is positioning his squad for next season so that the Titans can be aggressive in the player market for 2016 and what the club needs more than anything is a personality who delivers both on and off the field. Those players are hard to come by – and don't come cheap – and with the lack of third-party deals available to Titans players, it makes roster management a key aspect to Henry's tenure over the next three years.