Henry puts faith in recalled Titans trio
They have been ostracised from the playing group for the past fortnight but Titans coach Neil Henry said he had no hesitation in rushing Greg Bird, Dave Taylor and Beau Falloon back into his starting team for Sunday's clash with Newcastle.
Having been reinstated on Tuesday as they await court proceedings to play out regarding drugs charges levelled by the Queensland Crime and Corruption Commission, the inclusion of Bird, Taylor and Falloon represent three of four changes to the Titans team hammered 40-0 by the Panthers last week.
Bird's inclusion at lock allows captain Nate Myles to return to the front row, Taylor will take his place on the right edge while Falloon will start at hooker, Kierran Moseley dropping back to the bench. The four players to miss out on a place in the 17 are Matt Srama, Lachlan Burr, Agnatius Paasi and Mark Ioane with Matthew White returning from a hamstring injury on the bench.
Since incurring their suspension Bird, Taylor and Falloon have been restricted to self-managed conditioning work and contact work amongst themselves but Henry has no doubt they will have a positive effect on the overall performance of the team.
"I'm just glad that we've got the players back," Henry said. "It's been difficult for us as a club to have them excluded and not have them available for the start of the season.
"When you're talking about players of that calibre, they're experienced players. Matt White's coming back into the team because he's coming back from a hamstring injury but the other three guys who are back in the starting team, they've been working hard behind the scenes and trying to keep their fitness levels up and do a little bit of contact work in their small group.
"We haven't had a win yet so hopefully this is the impetus for us to have a good showing in front of a parochial crowd on the weekend."
Although he welcomes them back with open arms for what is likely to be a bruising encounter against a physical Knights team, Henry was quick to point out that the inclusion of no player can make up for a completion rate of just 45 per cent as was the case last weekend.
Having trailed just 8-0 at half-time against the Panthers, the Titans continually squandered possession in the second half but Henry believes the big-game experience of his four returning players will aid in a more disciplined performance.
"Our ball control was atrocious in the second half – three completions from 11 sets and we gifted field position and possession to the Panthers and we paid the price with six second half tries," he said.
"We've got a bit of work to do, there's no doubt about that but I'm hopeful that there's more experience in the team, there's a bit more size and power in the team with the guys back in and hopefully that transfers into a better performance."
The other significant change is the naming of Josh Hoffman at fullback for the first time at his new club. Having experimented with rotating Hoffman and William Zillman between left centre and fullback in Round 1, Henry played Zillman at fullback for the entire 80 minutes against Penrith but hinted they are likely to revert to the ol' switcheroo.
"He's named at fullback and he'll be starting at fullback," Henry said of Hoffman. "We didn't do a rotation last week but I think we might need to get back to that so 'Zilly' will start at that left centre spot and we'll wait and see.
"They both understand what's the best fit for the team. It's not about the individual so a rotation is probably a likely scenario but I'd like to see Josh start there and play some significant time at the back this week."