After a thrilling match decided by a late Pat Richards field goal, here are five things we learnt from the Gold Coast Titans clash with the Wests Tigers on Saturday night.
Aaron Woods grows in stature
Even for teammates such as Curtis Sironen, it is often easy to forget that Tigers prop Aaron Woods is days away from only his 24th birthday. Woods was a colossus for the Tigers in their one-point win over the Titans, running for a game-high 190 metres from 16 hit-ups, made 32 tackles and revved up his fellow forwards at every opportunity.
The incumbent NSW and Kangaroos forward joined the Tigers leadership group under new coach Jason Taylor over the pre-season and is inspiring fellow youngsters to follow his lead.
"You can just look at him and tell that's a 40-year-old in a 23-year-old's body," Sironen joked.
"He's gone to another level over the pre-season, he's gone into that leadership group now and he's someone we look up to. We played junior footy with him and he's just a couple of years older and that's the level that we want to get to. Guys like me and Kyle Lovett and other guys, we look up to him and I'm glad I get to play with him every week."
Titans fullback shuffle still a dilemma
The question Titans coach Neil Henry will wrestle with in coming days is whether the shared fullback duties between William Zillman and Josh Hoffman is allowing either player to make the greatest contribution possible to the team. Zillman spent the first 25 minutes at fullback before switching with Hoffman at left centre and both men made strong contributions in both positions. Zillman was safe under the high ball and had a number of strong carries in racking up 160 metres while Hoffman's powerful charges caused the Tigers defence plenty of problems. Two consummate professionals equally adept at playing both positions is a nice problem for Henry to have, but the overall continuity of the team may benefit from making the tough call of anointing someone as the chosen No.1.
Taupau a weapon for all occasions
In 2014 Martin Taupau developed a reputation for being the bench player who made the greatest impact; in 2015 Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor wants that intensity from the get-go. The 25-year-old started just three of 24 games last season but says his approach is no different no matter which minute of the game he comes on at.
"It was something that I strive for but it doesn't really matter whether I start or come off the bench, I'm just here to do my job just like any of the other boys," Taupau said.
"When you come off the bench you've got the responsibility of lifting the boys with a bit of energy and that's just as important at the start of the game."
Although originally named on the bench, Taylor said the intention was always to start Taupau and that it is something he may persist with.
"It's something we may do. We'll look at it," Taylor said.
"We planned to do it for Round 1 for a little while to be honest but we'll see where we get to with it."
Henry has selection headaches
Much discussion will take place on Monday and Tuesday as to exactly who Neil Henry has to pick from when he selects his side to take on the Panthers in Bathurst next Saturday. Props Matthew White and David Hala will remain on the injured list but most attention will centre on whether suspended players Beau Falloon, Greg Bird, David Taylor, Kalifa Faifai Loa and Jamie Dowling are available for selection. Falloon and Dowling had their cases regarding drugs charges adjourned until May 8 with Bird, Taylor and Faifai Loa to have their first day in court on Monday. With a resolution unlikely to be reached for a number of months, Henry said his star players would come back into the team if they become available.
"The players that weren't available tonight would find their way into the team, a few of those guys anyway," Henry said.
"There's no excuses for not having players available, we just weren't good enough tonight. If we have other players available then certainly they'll be up for selection given the quality of players that aren't able to play at the moment but all of that stuff is out of our hands. That needs to be decided over the coming days or weeks even."
Wins the way to the fans' hearts
There was a community-wide call to arms, special membership offers and tickets being given away by almost every Gold Coast media outlet so a crowd of 14,319 on a warm March evening was somewhat disappointing on Saturday night. Given the difficulties the club has been through in the past three months a show of support from the locals was expected but failed to materialise. The club has broken through the 10,000-member mark for this first time in its history and those who were in attendance made plenty of noise in the dying stages, but perhaps what the club needs more than anything else right now is simply a couple of wins.