Dynamic duo behind Titans finals push
They were thrust together as two of the many new faces who turned up to the Gold Coast for day one of pre-season training and now Tyrone Roberts says it is up to himself and halves partner Ashley Taylor to take the Titans back to the promised land.
Taylor's NRL initiation was initially intended to be a gradual one but the season-ending knee injury to Kane Elgey before the season had even begun meant that the now 21-year-old was immediately elevated to be Roberts' playmaking partner in the halves.
Thankfully for Gold Coast footy fans starved of finals football the pair had already formed a strong bond off the field and it is that trust and understanding of each other that is propelling the Titans towards an unlikely finish in the Telstra Premiership top eight.
Affectionately referring to each other as 'son-friend' (Taylor) and 'dad-friend' (Roberts), the pair have left any sense of ego behind them to form a play-making duo that evenly shares responsibility for the direction of the team.
As the senior member of the pairing Roberts was the dominant half early in the season but as Taylor has grown throughout the year the split has been much more evenly shared.
Both roam on either side of the field and if one gets caught in possession the other steps in to take control. They had a try assist apiece in the Titans' 34-14 win over the Eels on Saturday to take their tallies to 10 (Taylor) and seven (Roberts), and even share goal-kicking duties.
Roberts missed his opening two attempts of the night against the Eels so immediately handed the kicking tee to Taylor who slotted five goals from as many attempts. Roberts now has 37 goals from 47 attempts at 79 per cent to Taylor's 24 from 29 at 83 per cent and says sharing the responsibility is what has made their union so effective.
"I know when I'm off and when I miss two in a row I know I'm off and I'm sure he'd do the same," Roberts told NRL.com of the goal-kicking switch.
"If he misses two in a row I'll take it back; I know when to hand it over.
"I'll let him start next week and if he misses two then I'll jump in again.
"We're pretty close and that's the way it should be. When he's happy I'm happy and when I'm upset he knows when I'm upset. I'm grumpy sometimes but it's only for the good reasons.
"I know when he's having a bad day and I'm onto him straight away and he knows when I'm having a bad day.
"I don't know what it is, it's just the instinct that we have with each other. We're always together and if something's going on off the field I know something's wrong and he knows as well."
In addition to their shared individual numbers the combination of Roberts and Taylor is translating directly to wins for their team.
The Titans have lost all four games when either Roberts or Taylor has been absent yet when they play together the record reads an impressive nine wins from 14 starts, a stat not lost on coach Neil Henry.
"They complement each other. We all know that Ash has had a rapid rise but he's handling it," Henry said.
"He's not always going to be on the money with things but more often than not he is and he's been getting the job done.
"Tyrone's a really dynamic runner of the ball and we saw glimpses of that when he takes off and shows and tests the line.
"They've both got good kicking games, they've both got a good long kick and they can put the bombs up so it's good to have two kickers that can do that.
"They can share the goal-kicking. Tyrone wasn't hitting them too well for the first couple and then Ash stepped up. They both practise a lot anyway so it's good that we've got two options for that as well and Ash kicked quite well when he took over."
With six games left in the regular season to secure their place in the finals series, Roberts knows that it rests on the shoulders of himself and Rookie of the Year certainty Taylor to continue to improve and get their team across the line.
"We were a bit slack with our last plays [against the Eels]. Me and Ash have got to get in better positions but we'll look at that game and move on to the Sharkies because we'll be tested next week as well," said Roberts.
"If you get a good completion rate you can contend with anyone but individually for me, I need to be able to run. Get my hands on the ball and for the players around me to work off me.
"When me and Ash are on I think the whole team's on."