Titans make additions to second-tier squad
Familiar faces were few and far between as new signings, promoted under-20s rookies and returning Titans players took to the training paddock for the first session of the 2016 pre-season on Monday.
A brief yet punishing testing session in heat nudging 30 degrees was followed by the (for most) dreaded skin-fold test and appointments with the club doctor and physiotherapist to ascertain what physical shape each and every player is in.
Gold Coast regulars such as Greg Bird, Ryan James and David Mead were back on deck alongside new recruit David Shillington while the likes of Kane Elgey and James Roberts also hit the ground running.
But there were also a number of notable absentees for a variety of reasons.
Josh Hoffman is returning from the United States after a family wedding, Knights recruit Tyrone Roberts was in Fiji last weekend for Akuila Uate's wedding while Luke Douglas is en route back to the Gold Coast after watching his brother Kane play for the Wallabies in the Rugby World Cup final in England.
New signings Zeb Taia (ankle) and Ashley Taylor (hand) remain on restricted duties as well as Daniel Mortimer who injured his foot while holidaying in the US and William Zillman, Eddy Pettybourne, David Hala, Anthony Don and Matt Srama are recovering from off-season surgeries.
The Titans have also added Morgan Boyle and Jeff Lynch to their second-tier squad from the Raiders, signed former Australian Schoolboy Nathan Davis from Parramatta and have former Raider and Shark Sami Sauiluma trialling for a contract.
Under-20s graduates Karl Lawton and Oshae Tuiasau have also made the step up to the senior ranks and coach Neil Henry is hopeful that the addition of seasoned veterans such as Shillington and Friend will set the right tone for the remodelled playing roster.
"We've lost a fair bit of experience with the guys that have left the club and certainly guys like 'Friendy', 'Shillo' and Zeb Taia are experienced campaigners and they'll bring that experience," Henry said.
"That week-in, week-out ability to push themselves and get some consistency so we're looking forward to their leadership.
"[They will set an example] of being able to be at your best, to be organised and prepared to play NRL football on a consistent basis and to the best of your ability.
"Their habits and how they conduct themselves will be certainly something that some of our guys can look up to.
"We've got a few guys that are overcoming surgeries. Matt Srama and Anthony Don with their shoulder operations won't be doing any contact until post-Christmas, Oshae had a knee operation so he'll be a bit restricted, Daniel Mortimer has got a bit of a foot problem, Eddy Pettybourne had a bit of a knee clean-out as well as Dave Hala so there are five or six guys not in full training but certainly within the next month we should welcome most of the squad back."
Monday also served as the first day on the job for an expanded strength and conditioning staff with Matt Ford leading the high performance unit after stints at Canberra and Melbourne along with Sean Edwards (Raiders, Cowboys and Rabbitohs) and Adam Paulo (Broncos, Melbourne AFL).