Stopping Warriors starts at the back: Henry

Stopping Warriors starts at the back: Henry

"Maumalo!"

"Roger! Roger!"

The screams echoing throughout the Titans' training base during Friday's captain's run left no doubt as to just how dangerous they view the Warriors' back three of Roger Tuivasa-Sheck, Ken Maumalo and David Fusitu'a ahead of Saturday's clash at Cbus Super Stadium.

As they have been in 12 of the past 13 meetings between the two sides, the Warriors threaten to break out of their current slump to spoil Gold Coast's 10-year celebrations and much will hinge on the influence of their back three.


Where the Titans' revolving door of fullbacks and wingers this season have struggled to make headway from kick returns deep in their half, the Warriors rely on their sets starting beyond the 30-metre line courtesy of Tuivasa-Sheck, Maumalo and Fusitu'a.

In a statistic that also encompasses the runs from forwards from kick-offs, the Warriors are fifth in the Telstra Premiership for kick return metres with 2,263 metres while the Titans are languishing in 15th position with 1,630 metres.

Unsurprisingly the fast feet of the Warriors' fullback and captain sees him lead his side in kick return metres with 686m followed by Maumalo (260m) and Fusitu'a (110m).

Conversely, Tyrone Roberts leads the Titans' outside backs with 198m with Anthony Don next best with 105m, Jarryd Hayne accumulating 95m from three games at fullback and William Zillman 20m from his three NRL games this season.

Given the speed of Tuivasa-Sheck and the size of Maumalo and Fusitu'a Titans coach Neil Henry says his side will need to try some variations with their attacking sets in order to lessen their impact as much as possible.

"They actually play a back three so it's hard to find the grass sometimes against any of them because they do cover the field," Henry said of the importance of a good kicking game against the Warriors.

"That will be up to us to try and get momentum in our sets so that when we're kicking we're kicking on the front foot.

"Sometimes you can run the ball and kick late and bring the winger up so we just need to be a bit creative around our last tackle options.

"If you can land the ball on [Tuivasa-Sheck] and turn up at the same time you can make the tackle straight away. There's a bit of timing involved there in the execution of the kick but the rest of the time I prefer to get down there in good numbers and then cover the field against him.

"He's certainly dangerous. Trying to kick away from him would be a bonus and in behind their wingers."

With Roberts expected to miss the match with a shoulder injury Jarryd Hayne returns to his preferred position of fullback in a move designed to provide the Titans with greater momentum early in their sets.

 


Already this season the Titans have used eight different players among their back three rotation but in-form winger Anthony Don doesn't believe Hayne's return to the No.1 jersey affects the role they have to play for their team.

"It doesn't change how we operate," Don said.

"We're just going to try and support each other and try and get some quick play-the-balls for each other like we've tried to do other weeks.

"Hopefully Jarryd's involvement rises. The more times he gets the ball the more opportunities he has.

"He's one of the best in the game at taking opportunities so we're looking forward to getting him out the back and playing with him again at fullback."

The Titans will wear special commemorative jerseys to mark the club's 10 years in the Telstra Premiership with the name of every player to have played NRL for the club printed on the jersey.

Members of the Team of the Decade that will be announced prior to kick-off will form a guard of honour along with other former Gold Coast old boys for what Henry described as a special occasion for the club.

"We've got dedicated jerseys to celebrate the players that have played for the club in the 10-year tenure – going back to the days when Michael Searle and Paul Broughton got the licence here on the Coast – and it should be a great occasion for the boys," Henry said.

"We'll certainly be talking to the boys about the importance of the occasion and having a few old boys here will be fantastic."