Titans 2015 season review
A season that began in turmoil off the field finished with the club in a stronger financial situation courtesy of NRL ownership and a host of bright young talent promising that there are better days ahead.
The overwhelming favourite for the wooden spoon when the season kicked off, the Titans worked their way into the top eight mid-year courtesy of a rookie halfback by the name of Kane Elgey and the blistering speed of James Roberts.
But that was where things started to spiral out of control.
Having announced his intention to join the Gold Coast following Manly's Round 1 loss to the Eels, Daly Cherry-Evans back-flipped on his decision and told the world that he always wanted to stay at Manly.
The ramifications of having and then losing Cherry-Evans may be felt at the Titans for the next couple of seasons but in Elgey they have hope for the future.
There has been a sizeable clean-out of the roster and in winning three of their last six games the young newcomers showed enough character for the club to stay clear of the wooden spoon.
Their home form improved, winning five of 12 games with five of their losses decided by 10 points or less.
Two statistics that go hand-in-hand – completed sets and defence – were the Titans' major faults but for the first time in a number of years Titans fans can look forward and see brighter days ahead.
Where They Excelled: Following the introduction of Kane Elgey in Round 4 the Titans had no problems getting across the try line, scoring 30-plus points in three straight weeks for the first time in the club's history. James Roberts and Anthony Don were the main beneficiaries as they sat atop the NRL's top try-scorers list but as the injuries mounted in the halves, the points dried up. Their average of four line breaks per game was second only to the Roosters and their 11 offloads per game second to the Panthers.
Where They Struggled: It may be boring but the Titans were most competitive in games when their completion rate was at its best, and that wasn't often enough. Gold Coast finished the season with the least number of completed sets and the worst completion rate in the competition which in turn put pressure on a defence that leaked 113 tries, more than double that of the minor premiers the Roosters.
Missing In Action: Such was the extent of the Titans' injury toll mid-year that coach Neil Henry was forced to make two purchases just prior to the June 30 deadline to fill the roster. Former Rooster Nene Macdonald went on to play 11 games for the Titans this season while Chad Redman had seven games for the Titans after transferring from Newcastle. The Titans missed Greg Bird, Aidan Sezer, Kane Elgey, Beau Falloon and Kierran Moseley for extended periods during a season in which they used 31 players.
Turning Point: A week after Elgey limped from the field with an ankle injury the Titans disposed of the Bulldogs at home 28-14 to move into eighth spot on the table through 14 rounds but the loss of Sezer a week later would prove to be terminal. The partnership of Elgey and Sezer had yielded five wins from nine games but when they were reunited in Round 20 the Titans had lost four straight and dropped to 15th on the ladder.
Hold Your Head High: Elgey's rookie NRL season could well prove to be a catalyst for future Titans success but Roberts provided the attacking spark Gold Coast had lacked in recent years. With 14 tries through 15 rounds it seemed a formality that Roberts would surpass the Titans' record of 16 tries in a season held by David Mead but as hard as he tried all he could do was equal the mark. There are areas of Roberts' game that still need attention but a full pre-season on the back of his first full season in the NRL – not to mention the arrival of cousin Tyrone Roberts – should see the 22-year-old reach even greater heights next season.
2016 Crystal Ball: Coach Neil Henry's roster is still very much a work in progress but it is clear there is an emphasis on youth and the promotion of local talent. Elgey's emergence somewhat softens the blow of the Daly Cherry-Evans debacle with Junior Kangaroos half Ashley Taylor and experienced Knights half Tyrone Roberts creating competition for spots in the key playmaking positions. Plenty of young players were given a great insight into what it takes to succeed in the NRL, they should be better again by the time 2016 rolls around.
Conclusion: You can find positives in all things but the fact remains that the Titans missed the finals for a fifth straight year, a fate they share only with the Eels. Greg Bird's eight-game suspension stemming from the Kangaroos' Test loss to the Kiwis robbed the team of one of its stars for a third of the season and injuries again to Sezer and also Elgey halted their mid-year surge.
After his first full season in charge coach Neil Henry has hinted at further changes to the roster over the next 12 months but believes they are compiling a playing group capable of challenging for a place in the top eight in 2016.
"You sit back now and watch a bit of finals footy and that's something that this club hasn't been a part of for a number of years now," said Henry.
"Some young players have got some experience this year and they'll be better for that.
"If they keep kicking on and we stay healthy I see no reason why we can't feature in the finals next year. I'm confident in what we're doing recruitment-wise and some young players that are coming through."
Position (after 26 rounds): 14th
Home Record: Won five, lost seven
Away Record: Won four, lost eight
Longest Winning Streak: Three wins (def. Eels 38-16, def. Panthers 32-6, def. Warriors 32-28)
Longest Losing Streak: Five losses (def. by Warriors 36-14, Roosters 20-10, Sea Eagles 38-6, Knights 30-2, Broncos 34-0)
Players Used: 31
Tries Scored: 76
Tries Conceded: 113