Douglas grappling with new bench role
As the club's reigning player of the year you would have assumed Luke Douglas would walk straight back into the Titans' starting team and the durable front-rower admits life from the bench is taking some getting used to.
Having missed the opening game of the season due to a one-week suspension stemming from a trial game against Parramatta, Douglas will start from the bench for the third week in a row when Gold Coast travel to Canberra to take on the Raiders on Saturday.
It's a role he has only filled three times in the past two seasons and he remains uncertain of how to take it, his desire to be part of the starting 13 as strong as it was the day he made his NRL debut for the Sharks in Round 2, 2006.
But unlike the days of a decade ago and longer when bench players were merely back-ups for the starting team, the development of the modern game and tweaking of the interchange rules makes bench players now just as valuable as those wearing 1-13.
Last Saturday alone the three teams that trailed at half-time all went on to win as the introduction of fresh bodies from the bench led to seismic shifts in momentum.
In running for 81 metres in just 28 minutes of game-time Douglas was a key component of the Titans' second-half surge and said he is learning to accept the influence bench players now have on the game.
"Usually your strongest 13 go on and when they're tired they might have short spells," Douglas told NRL.com.
"Throughout my career I've had to punch out big minutes because we didn't have the depth. I've even played a couple of 80-minute games because the coach said he'd rather have me out there tired than sticking one of the reserves on.
"Now all 17 have got to be up to standard and you'll all be contributing to get the job done and get the win.
"It's a bit of a learning curve. It just shows with the depth we've got [at the Titans] that one week on the sideline that first round and you put yourself behind the eight-ball.
"You've got to be constantly performing well to secure your spot in the 17."
Douglas has not spoken extensively to coach Neil Henry about the change to his roster other than Henry praising the contribution he made with limited time against the Wests Tigers last weekend.
"It plays on your mind a bit, whether I did something wrong and why I wasn't getting the time but I've just got to do my bit for the team when he needs me," said the 29-year-old.
"I haven't really spoken to him too much about it but what he did say was that he knew I didn't get a lot of time but that he was happy with the quality that I did and that I'll get a bit more game-time in the coming weeks.
"It will change week to week. Maybe we need a good start, maybe we're coming up against a smaller team and we need the power guys, it's going to change throughout the whole 26 rounds.
"I've been in the game a fair while now and having the challenge of a good quality pack and depth hopefully it brings the best out in me. Hopefully it brings the best out in us all."
Prior to serving effectively a three-game ASADA suspension at the end of the 2014 season Douglas had played 215 consecutive games since making his debut and played all 24 matches for the Titans last season.
One of the men now keeping him out of the starting team, David Shillington, said such a record is testimony to the professionalism Douglas has displayed throughout his entire career.
"There were probably many times where he was going to be ruled out for the next game but he was professional enough to take care of it," Shillington said.
"As you get older you learn how to take care of yourself a lot better but he obviously learnt that from a young age.
"He must have had a wise old head on him and had some good advice and sought out the right people to help him because when you're in the gym and when you're at home you're activating certain muscles and core strength work to avoid certain injuries and then when you get injuries it's about professionalism to take care of them.
"It's extremely impressive and he's obviously had a wise head on him for a long time."