Olive's opportunity to stake NRL claim
John Olive has been given a golden opportunity to prove he has a place in the NRL after being named to replace Konrad Hurrell at right centre for the Titans in Sunday's clash with the Wests Tigers at Cbus Super Stadium.
Although tempted to move Jarryd Hayne back to the centres and shift Tyrone Roberts to fullback in order to facilitate the return of Kane Elgey to the starting team, Titans coach Neil Henry has instead opted to hand Olive just his third start of the season in a game they must win in order to keep their slim finals hopes alive.
Since joining the club from the Rabbitohs prior to the 2016 season the former Australian Schoolboys representative has made just six top grade appearances and with a host of young talent pushing up through the under-20s is fighting for his future at the club.
Contracted for the 2018 season, Olive's time at the Titans has been disrupted by injury – most notably a pectoral tear in the final trial game in February that sidelined him for the first three months of the season.
He played in Round 15 and Round 16 and been on the fringe for the past month and with Hurrell looking at as many as four weeks out of the team with his hamstring injury Henry has urged the 20-year-old to show that he belongs in elite company.
"It's been a tough season for Tweed but he's certainly been holding his side up," Henry said of Olive's form for Tweed Heads in the Intrust Super Cup.
"He had that ruptured pec so he was out for a long time and hasn't been able to force his way past our other guys. Zilly's (William Zillman's) form has been great, Anthony Don has been probably our most consistent back anyway and so we've been fairly stable in there and he hasn't been able to force his way through.
"Hopefully he takes this opportunity."
As has been the case all season the Titans have a number of other injury concerns for the Tigers game with Dale Copley (knee) and Kevin Proctor (hamstring) both nursing injuries out of the 24-16 loss to Penrith.
Henry remains confident that both will take the field on Sunday but if Copley is unable to recover from a medial ligament strain it will likely necessitate Hayne shifting into the centres and Roberts moving back to fullback.
Last week's loss to Penrith has put the Titans in the precarious position of needing to win all six of their remaining games to be any hope of sneaking into the top eight, Henry adamant they will fight until the very end.
"What we can do now is keep winning games and we're a chance. Our season's on the line this Sunday afternoon," said Henry, who included both Karl Lawton and Agnatius Paasi on the extended bench.
"It can go two ways. Your season can be gone and you can't make the finals and you can drop a bit in intensity but I'd like to think most teams have got a fair bit of pride to play for.
"And if you can get a result against a higher-ranked team at least it's proving you can compete against them as well."