Titans win big with three of a kind
Ryan James jokes that Nathan Peats was better in his first week at the club "when he was quiet", Konrad Hurrell was simply 'Koni' from the day he arrived while Jarryd Hayne brought with him an aura and media attention in equally high volumes.
When the Titans started out last November the plan was very much to play finals football and somewhere in the back of coach Neil Henry's mind was a view to add to the roster as he went along.
A player clean-out and the whole Daly Cherry-Evans backflip saga gave the Titans a war chest to play with and Henry had the presence of mind to exert great patience.
James Roberts walking out to join the Broncos in late November was not part of the plan but when Sam Burgess made his return to South Sydney the Titans were in position to snare premiership-winning Origin back-rower Chris McQueen.
John Olive played a trial game against the Titans and then moved to the Gold Coast a week later yet still Henry had space to play with under his salary cap.
He was keen on Konrad Hurrell, who seemed determined to stay in New Zealand, and had trouble convincing the board that any prior indiscretions wouldn't reflect badly on a club working tirelessly to enhance its standing in the community.
Parramatta's major issues with their own salary cap made highly-regarded hooker Nathan Peats a free agent and when Jarryd Hayne's Olympic dream came to an end with the Fiji rugby sevens team Henry made a casual phone call to his manager, Wayne Beavis.
"He can play for us this year if he wants."
"That was something that we wouldn't have been able to do unless we had a spot and were under budget and we had outside sponsorship for him, which we have," Henry said.
"That enabled us through that loophole where he wasn't registered with another club that he could be available after June 30.
"We sat down and came up with a strategy where we could be patient, have some flexibility and pick up some players later in the season and that's how it happened.
"If you'd said at the start of the year to be patient because we'd pick up Nathan Peats, Konrad Hurrell and Jarryd Hayne would be ludicrous but I knew that there would be some movement at other clubs."
For a playing group that had been pulled together from all corners of the globe nine months earlier, welcoming three new faces over the space of two months was a relatively simple process.
"Because there are so many players that have been here this year we just had to come together and gel," said former Knight Tyrone Roberts.
"We made them feel welcome because we knew they were going to be in the side. We had to make them feel welcome so they could play their best football because the more they feel under pressure probably the less they're going to perform."
Peats was lauded for the way he handled his exit from the Eels and after the stress of relocating his young family interstate subsided he said that he was able to slot into the squad relatively quickly.
Since making his debut for the club in Round 11 Peats has missed just one game and said it only took a week before he felt comfortable expressing himself in the team environment.
"I was a bit quiet the first week and pretty much didn't say anything. I'm probably a bit opinionated sometimes but this is how I am," Peats said.
"It's been pretty easy. Most NRL teams are like this I'm pretty sure. Every team I've played for you walk in and everyone's accepting and at the end of the day you're all blokes having a good laugh and wanting to play footy."
"Peatsy can be serious but he's quick to bag anyone about anything," adds veteran front-rower Luke Douglas.
"Whether 'Birdy' (Greg Bird) has got his missus' shorts on or 'Boog' (Anthony Don) wearing a homeless jumper, or even the coach or Terry Matterson. All that sort of stuff creates a good environment in the team."
As for the newbies that followed Peats, Hurrell and Hayne have become something of the Titans' odd couple, the giggly Hurrell never afraid to pick on superstar Hayne whose demeanour towards outsiders may seem confidently cold but who has quickly become popular amongst the players.
"Jarryd can be serious but he's also a joker and laidback and Koni's Koni. Bit weird and wonderful and does his own sort of thing," Douglas explains.
"They're always hanging out together and seem to have bonded pretty well," Ryan James says of the Hurrell-Hayne union.
"Koni was Koni from day one. He's just that larrikin but when it comes to footy he's definitely dedicated himself and his time on the Gold Coast to bettering himself and I think it's definitely shown.
"I'd met 'Haynesy' once before in an emerging [Origin] camp. He was one of the senior players there and he's done the same thing, stepped into that role and has that aura about him."
But we'll let Hurrell have the last word about playing alongside someone who at the start of the year was a San Francisco 49er as he was flogging himself to try and prove he deserved to be a first-grader at the Warriors.
"I was just intimidated about him taking all our money," Hurrell jokes.
"I reckon it's a good thing for us to have him because all the media stuff was just going on Haynes and giving us a break and allowing the whole team to just focus on footy.
"Obviously he's used to it and he's taking all the hard stuff from the media and he's already been up to the highest level with the 49ers so he's used to it.
"We were kind of happy that he was taking all the media stuff and we were just here to train and try and play good."
They weren't there when this 2016 Titans odyssey began but these three representative stars have the potential to carry it through to a wonderfully unexpected conclusion.
Game on. Data off.
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