Titans turn to rookies in hour of need
The Gold Coast Titans will blood their fourth NRL debutant in the space of three weeks and coach Neil Henry hopes Tyler Cornish's enthusiasm can rub off on a team decimated by injuries.
The final make-up of Gold Coast's team to face Parramatta at Cbus Super Stadium remains clouded after the club's application to have new signing Dale Copley rushed into the squad was denied by the NRL and Eddy Pettybourne and Karl Lawton were the ones to drop out of the 19-man squad announced on Thursday night.
Englishman Dan Sarginson is still being troubled by a patella tendon injury in his knee and was considered an outside chance by Henry of playing on Thursday morning, but took no part in the captain's run on match eve.
If he is unable to play Chris McQueen would almost certainly shift from the back row into the centres and open the door for yet another debutant, Max King, to be included in the final 17.
If King was to play he would be the fifth Titan to make their NRL debut in 2017 and the second teenager (along with winger Tyronne Roberts-Davis) to feature in a team on Friday night that will have a spine with an average age of 23.
William Zillman is the only player of 30 years of age in the 19-man squad but Henry has urged youngsters such as Cornish to not be daunted by the occasion and provide a team looking for their first win with an injection of energy.
"Take the opportunity to step up and show what you can do and bring that enthusiasm that young players do bring and players on debut," Henry said.
"On top of that it's up to our other guys to do their job and lift and not expect that the young guys are going to carry the team.
"We've got enough experience out on the park. There's enough footballers out there who have played a lot of first grade at a good level so we need everyone to step up."
Recruited to Intrust Super Cup club Burleigh when the Sydney Roosters didn't renew his contract, Cornish has spent all summer training with the Titans with the hope of an earning an NRL call-up.
He was signed as a half by the Bears who had to replace both Cameron Cullen and Jamal Fogarty in the off-season but has done much of the pre-season with the Titans training at fullback, giving co-captain Ryan James the confidence that he will be able to handle the role.
"He did a bit of training there in the pre-season and he's shown glimpses of excellence," James said.
"He played there a little bit in the Nines and he can drift around the back, he's got good silky hands.
"He's more of a halfback but he can get the job done and I believe he'll be great for us on the weekend.
"Anyone that's debuting is going to be nervous but he's been pretty confident all week and it looked like he had a good training run there the other day and he'd been doing that for the past six weeks in that utility role.
"He was always at the front in pre-season training hard and really working to get what he wanted and that's what he's got this week, he got the NRL debut."