Titans to persist with Elgey-Taylor halves pairing
The future of Tyrone Roberts at the Gold Coast Titans is looking decidedly shaky after coach Neil Henry named Kane Elgey and Ash Taylor as his halves pairing for Saturday's local derby against the Broncos at Cbus Super Stadium and relegated Roberts to the bench.
After guiding the Titans to the finals last season Roberts has made no secret of his desire to be one of the starting halves at the club but Henry's preference was to start the season with Elgey and Taylor and now that his five-eighth has returned from a sternum injury he has regained his No.6 jersey.
In order to account for the loss of centre Konrad Hurrell last week Henry shuffled his playmakers to accommodate Elgey in the starting side with Roberts pushed to fullback and Jarryd Hayne to right centre.
NRL.com understands that Hayne was privately disappointed at the move and while he was back in his preferred position after just 40 minutes against the Wests Tigers, Roberts has not been so fortunate.
While the Titans have won three of four games with Taylor and Roberts paired together this year the Elgey-Taylor partnership has yielded just three wins from 13 games.
Having formed a strong bond playing together in 2016 Taylor has said previously that he will "be a bit lost" if Roberts leaves the club at the end of the season but given his desire to be a starting half and earn the contract such a position commands the 26-year-old looks likely to leave unless the salary cap proves to be higher than has been projected.
A victim of his own versatility having played fullback, hooker, five-eighth and even a little bit of centre last Sunday, Roberts has been named in the No.14 jersey against Brisbane as Henry prepares to go all-in with his young halves.
"There could be a rotation around there but I think I'll still persevere with Kane and Ash as the starting halves," Henry said ahead of the team announcement on Tuesday.
"We might see Tyrone in a utility role."
With Hurrell still a couple of weeks from returning from a hamstring injury having Kevin Proctor back will help to shore up the Titans' right side defence against a Brisbane team boasting strike on both sides of the ruck.
As he did last week, Henry has named John Olive to line up against Tautau Moga with Dale Copley to try and contain James Roberts on the left but doesn't anticipate making a positional switch as he did prior to kick-off against the Tigers.
"It's tough. We don't really have a lot of options in the centres and Jarryd has played there before," Henry said.
"He's won a World Cup playing right centre so he certainly handles that position but we know that his best value's at the back when he's carrying the ball and getting his hands on the ball.
"When he switched back there [in the second half] he got that try and he's quite hard to stop close to the line so whether or not we rotate around there or we revisit John Olive who has played in the centres before."
Their last-second 24-22 loss to the Broncos in Round 7 was the Titans' sixth in a row against their nearest rival and Henry admitted that if they play with the same poor attitude that effectively ended their season last Sunday they won't be able to keep pace with a team chasing a top four finish.
"They're always fairly intense encounters and we really need to improve on our performance against Wests Tigers otherwise we won't be in it," said Henry, who has five wins from 16 games against Wayne Bennett-coached teams.
"The Broncos have been very consistent all year. You know they turn up to play a game of football every week and they were off a little bit against a very enthusiastic Parramatta side but we'll need to improve a lot on that performance.
"The players came in dejected on that performance and when you look at it, it's not skill-based, it's attitude-based and being up for a game of footy.
"We've got to be able to overcome the fact that a couple of our key players are out. We've had a disrupted season but we still need to turn up and be competitive.
"I'm sure we'll reverse that this Saturday."