Injury-hit Titans set to issue another debut
The Gold Coast Titans may have to seek special salary cap dispensation for Paterika Vaivai to become the 11th player to debut for the club this season with doubts as to whether back-rower Joe Greenwood will be cleared to take his place in the side.
Vaivai was named on an extended bench on Tuesday but there is severe doubt as to whether Greenwood will be allowed to play after the Englishman suffered his third concussion of the season against the Warriors on Sunday.
If Greenwood is unable to play the only other forwards in the 21-man squad capable of filling his role are Vaivai and Morgan Boyle but as both are on second tier contracts the Titans will need permission from the NRL for either to be able to face the Raiders at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday evening.
The Titans found themselves in a similar situation late in the 2014 season when forward Tom Kingston was given special dispensation to play but the worst injury toll coach Neil Henry has experienced in his 20 years of coaching could force them to seek similar concessions much earlier in the year.
The loss of Greenwood coupled with the foot injury suffered by Nathaniel Peteru has stretched the Titans' forward stocks to breaking point, not to mention Henry having to name a fourth different fullback in the space of six weeks.
Teenage rookie Tyronne-Roberts Davis has been named at fullback in place of Tyrone Roberts who suffered a knee injury against the Warriors and was forced from the field with 31 minutes left to play in Auckland.
The prognosis on Roberts' knee is not as bad as first thought and he was on Tuesday included in the squad to face the Raiders although Henry did describe him as a "really outside chance" of recovering in time to take his place in the team.
Rumoured to be a chance to play this week hooker Nathan Peats now won't be back until the Round 7 clash with the Broncos at the earliest while Jarryd Hayne, William Zillman and Dan Sarginson are still a number of weeks away from a return.
David Hala became the 100th player to represent the Titans when he debuted for the club in Round 22, 2015 but a dramatic overhaul of the roster under Henry and this year's horrendous injury toll has seen 23 players become Titans since Round 1 last year.
Vaivai will become the 24th and 125th in the club's 10-year history if he debuts off the interchange bench against Canberra in a Titans team that welcomes back centre Konrad Hurrell and winger Anthony Don from injury.
With games against the Raiders, Broncos and Sharks in the next three weeks the Titans desperately need to turn committed efforts into competition points with Henry conceding their confidence is down after four tough losses from their first five games.
"It erodes a little bit. We've had a lot of changes and we haven't had some people back," Henry said.
"The reward [for effort] is winning a game of footy.
"It's been frustrating for everyone that we haven't got those opportunities so the luck certainly hasn't been with us but we're also realists about needing to improve our game.
"It's a crucial time. The Raiders are a good side, played well last week at home, but they're coming up here and we've been having a real dig at home as well.
"As a club and as a team we just need to get that win on the board.
"There's a lot of effort in the team and a lot of commitment to doing the best they can but it hasn't been good enough and we need to turn up this week.
"We need to get our second win for the year to get morale up."
In a year of chopping and changing there were encouraging signs for the halves combination of Ash Taylor and Kane Elgey against the Warriors, particularly in the first half when they jumped out to a 22-12 lead at the break.
But despite the frustration of fielding a different combination each of the five weeks to date Taylor says it can't be used as an excuse for their lowly position on the ladder.
"We do get sick of it, not being able to field the best team we can, but we just have to put up with it for now and the guys that come in have got to put in the best effort to try and fill the roles that those guys play," Taylor said.
"Obviously being 1-4 is not really ideal for us but we've had a tough road with injury but the boys are hanging in there and we did show signs that we could be a great team on the weekend.
"We just couldn't close out that game which I'm filthy on myself mainly because that's the role I want, to try and close out games like that and guide this team to success.
"I'm pretty devastated with my efforts in that second half and I've got to do better myself."