Titans v Wests Tigers
Cbus Super Stadium
Saturday 6pm (Qld)
Hope is a powerful emotion and fans of both of these teams will feel a whole lot better about their team if they can somehow, someway eke out a win in Round 1 and remove themselves from the bottom half of the ladder for at least the first week of the season.
The Titans have issued a rallying cry throughout the Gold Coast community having stumbled from one crisis to the next over the course of the pre-season while new Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor will unveil a halves/fullback combination with an average age of less than 21 and with just 60 NRL games to their credit.
There is a distinct feeling of change sweeping through both of these clubs and a win first up would give some certainty that things are heading in the right direction.
The Titans' squad for Round 1 has been decimated by the drugs allegations that rocked sport in Queensland with a host of new faces called in to replace the likes of Greg Bird, Dave Taylor and Beau Falloon.
Broncos recruit Josh Hoffman has been named in the centres but will rotate with fullback William Zillman during the game and Kierran Moseley, Lachlan Burr and Agnatius Paasi will all double their career tally of NRL games when they debut for the Titans.
With Aaron Woods and Keith Galloway up front and Martin Taupau ready to rip in from the bench, the Tigers boast a noticeable size advantage although their back row stocks are not quite as healthy.
Curtis Sironen appears primed for a big year on the left edge, ever-reliable Dene Halatau will lock the scrum while the battle for the right edge forward spot has been won – for now at least – by Sauaso Sue.
There's very little support for either of these two teams in premiership betting but for a week at least, the winner of this one will feel on top of the world.
Watch out Titans: The dynamic duo of Luke Brooks and James Tedesco that terrorised the Titans when these teams met on a sultry Sunday in Round 2 last season has found a new, equally young partner in crime in five-eighth Mitchell Moses. In his rookie season last year Moses made 10 appearances, predominantly at fullback, but with both he and Brooks locked in at the Tigers for the next three seasons Jason Taylor will unveil a halves combination he will be banking on working with for many years to come. Brooks and Tedesco exhibited a wonderful understanding in limited opportunities last season and the addition of Moses makes their 'spine' one of the most exciting in the competition.
Watch out Wests Tigers: Over the course of this off-season the Titans have been dragged to the corner, kicked to the kerb, lifted up by the collar and then roughed up a little more, and for the most part it was of their own doing. But out of the depths of despair hope sometimes springs eternal and the Gold Coast community have vowed to rally behind their team when the season kicks off on Saturday evening. There will be six Titans making their debuts for the club, a new coach in Neil Henry looking to lay down a new foundation and a skipper in Nate Myles who will demand 80 minutes of effort from his 16 teammates. It's arguably the most important game in the club's history since their 2010 Preliminary Final loss to the Roosters so the Tigers need to be ready for the unexpected.
Key Match-Up: They won't play directly opposite each other but in right centres James Roberts (Titans) and Tim Simona (Tigers) you have two electrifying talents capable of turning a match with a single piece of brilliance. Teammates have spoken glowingly of Roberts' dedication in pre-season training and half Daniel Mortimer has vowed to provide him with more space and time to use his blistering speed. Injuries limited Simona to 14 games in 2014 but he showed for Samoa in the Four Nations what he is capable of when confident and injury free. When points are scored, expect either of these two to have played a part.
The History: Played 13; Titans 7, Tigers 6
The last visit by the Wests Tigers to the Gold Coast resulted in a seven-try 42-12 romp to the visitors but when the Titans headed south in April they came away from Leichhardt Oval with a 22-6 triumph. There were just three more wins for the Titans in season 2014 after that Round 8 defeat of the Tigers with the overall record between these teams slightly favouring the Titans with seven wins from 13 clashes. In eight visits to the Gold Coast the Tigers have been victorious on three occasions.
What Are The Odds: Titans $2.60, Wests Tigers $1.50. Sportsbet are reporting double the amount of money for the Tigers in this one and also slightly ahead in line betting at -6.0 points.
Did You Know: Pat Richards' 22-point haul (two tries, seven goals) against the Titans in Round 2 last year was the single highest tally of his NRL career. His record haul in the Super League was 38 points (five tries, nine goals) against Catalans in 2010, the most by a Wigan player in the Super League era.
Match Officials: Referee: Gavin Badger. Assistant Referee: Adam Gee. Touch Judges: Michael Wise and Belinda Sleeman. Video Referees: Bernard Sutton and Ben Galea.
Televised: Fox Sports – Live 7pm AEDT.
The Way We See It: In captain Robbie Farah and half Luke Brooks, the Tigers possess two conductors capable of taking any emotion away from what will hopefully be a big Gold Coast crowd. The energy and intensity will be high early but with two established front-rowers and the smarts around the ruck, expect the Tigers to be first to settle into their groove. They may have to absorb an early flurry of punches from the Titans but if the Tigers can get to half-time near enough to level on the scoreboard they should have the experience and nous to go on with it in the second half. Tigers by 14.