Bronco trash becomes Titans treasure
Wayne Bennett's trash is shaping as Neil Henry's treasure as the Gold Coast Titans began preparations for 2015 minus two of their most significant off-season signings enticed from up the M1 in Brisbane.
There were plenty of fresh faces and a few with a lot of fitness ahead of them when the Titans gathered at their new digs at the prestigious The Southport School on Tuesday but Broncos recruits Josh Hoffman and David Hala were both absent.
Hoffman remains in camp with the New Zealand team ahead of the Kiwis' Four Nations clash with England on Saturday and is not expected to join his new team until close to Christmas while Hala will turn up for his first day as a Titan next Monday.
As one of a number of NRL clubs to have engaged in some frantic off-season wheeling and dealing, the Titans have added Hoffman, Hala and Davin Crampton to their books in the past week with Henry suggesting there is still room for further second-tier signings before 2015 kicks off.
But the signing of Hoffman – given permission to negotiate elsewhere by returning Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett – comes from the very top shelf and creates even greater competition for the fullback position amongst the likes of William Zillman and David Mead.
"People have been talking about where we would fit him and we've got fullbacks and all that but he's a quality player that carries the ball really well," Henry said following the gruelling session. "We need to beef up our attack and our ability to score points and carry the ball so he's doing that.
"We talked about it when we had a meeting, his preferred position is fullback for sure, but he's played centre and he's played in the halves as well and he understands that he'll be the best fit for the team at the time.
"If he's playing good footy and he's our best fullback then he'll be wearing the No.1 and 'Zilly' and 'Meady' and those guys who are vying for that position are acutely aware of that as well."
There are as many as 13 new faces from the squad of 36 players the Titans' drew from in 2014 with forwards Lachlan Burr, Matt Robinson and Ryan Simpkins also joining the club in the off-season.
Like Hoffman, Hala was given permission by the Broncos to look elsewhere in search of an opportunity to add to his 37 NRL games accrued over the past six years and found a willing taker in Henry.
"I don't know about cast-off, again I think he was looking for an opportunity with limited game-time up there I suppose and he adds a fair bit of power," he said. "We'll be looking to extend his minutes on the field and he'll complement what we've got with our front-rowers and we're starting to build replacements for Luke Bailey.
"The other guy who really didn't play much footy last year is Ryan James so he's started the pre-season well, he was running well yesterday so we'll expect big things from him."
The setting on the banks of the Nerang River just west of Surfers Paradise may have been idyllic but the view was decidedly steamy in the demountable 'hot box' where players were subjected to punishing cardio workouts.
Twelve players including co-captain Nate Myles, Daniel Mortimer, Anthony Don and Ryan James were spared the torture test due to their impressive results in the two kilometre time trial and skinfold tests on Monday while Dave Taylor checked in looking in good shape but troubled again by a minor calf complaint.
Such were the conditions in the 'hot box' that cameras fogged up upon entry and the treadmills began to malfunction but Henry is confident the Titans can achieve the same sort of performance results in their new surroundings that they achieved in the failed Centre of Excellence.
"We obviously had the altitude chamber at Robina and we haven't got that now but it was a very hot environment [in the demountable] when you have 24 or 25 players in there," said Henry who will be in charge at the Titans for the next three years.
"It's just an uncomfortable environment and we're trying to keep it nice and humid in there as well to make the training conditions a bit more difficult for them.
"The start of the season is usually fairly warm – we're going over to Auckland at the end of January – so we want to do that type of training for a bit of mental toughness.
"[The condition of] some of the guys is a bit disappointing but overall we're pretty happy with where we're at. The new players to the club they'll be here anyway right from the start to get used to what we're trying to achieve with our training but overall we're fairly happy. I think we're ahead of where we started last year which is a good sign."