Henry to gamble on dual fullbacks
Gold Coast Titans coach Neil Henry is set to unveil a dual fullback attacking structure for his team's Round 1 clash with the Wests Tigers, unable to split incumbent William Zillman and high-profile recruit Josh Hoffman.
In between off-field controversies the main talking point over the summer at the Titans has been whether Hoffman would unseat Zillman for his preferred position at the back but it appears as though the pair are going to embark on a job-sharing arrangement overseen by Henry.
When teams are announced next week only one man will be wearing the No.1 jersey but Henry believes he can better maximise both players' strengths and their contribution to the team by rotating the pair between fullback and left centre as the game unfolds.
Embarking on his seventh season at the Titans, Zillman was the hero when he kicked the winning field goal against the Bulldogs in Round 26 last season while Hoffman has made no secret of the fact that he wants to make the fullback position his own, a belief that led to him leaving the Broncos after seven years in Brisbane.
"It's going to be one of those things where there might be a bit of positional change during the game, fullback to left centre. It mightn't be ideal but we might start like that," Henry told NRL.com.
"It gives us an option to have two guys carrying the ball at different times who might be a bit fresh as well. 'Hoffy' has got a great carry, a strong carry of the ball on kick returns; 'Zilly' is quick and also got a very fast play-the-ball.
"I don't know if they're going to really rest out in the centres but you'll cover less metres than you do at fullback where you're following the ball all the time.
"It might be a situation where we have got some fresh legs at the back by rotating them between two positions. It's a bit of a change-up too, they're different style of players so it can work; we'll wait and see."
All throughout the pre-season Zillman and Hoffman have been alternating between fullback and left centre during training drills and in the trials. Any potential confusion is likely to be found out by the kicking games of Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah and half Luke Brooks but the upside is a lighter workload for one of the key positions on the field.
It also puts doubt in the minds of the defence when in attack and Titans half Daniel Mortimer is confident that he and five-eighth Aidan Sezer have done sufficient work to have developed combinations with both Zillman and Hoffman.
"We've trained hours each day all week for the whole pre-season so we've got some combinations with both," Mortimer said. "We know how both play so I don't think that will be a factor as long as we're communicating on the field.
"They both play pretty similar styles, they're both hard runners and quite skilful with the ball so as long as the communication is there it doesn't matter who's at the back out of the two."
Henry is resigned to being without automatic selections Greg Bird, Dave Taylor and Beau Falloon for the season-opener but says it will provide an opportunity for some young players to step into some sizeable shoes.
"We've got to finalise our 17. We're going to be without at least three guys – 'Birdy', Dave Taylor and Beau Falloon – but Matt Robinson, Lachlan Burr, Kierran Moseley, Jai Ingram, there are a few replacements there," Henry said.
"They're going to have to step up because they're replacing some quality and some impact with our attack. Kierran Moseley and Matt Srama have been training well, Christian Hazard has been good at training, so we just have to cope with that."