James urged to rediscover mean streak
Titans coach Neil Henry has challenged Ryan James to dig down and rediscover the aggressive streak that accompanied his arrival into the NRL as the Gold Coast skipper admits he has doubted his leadership ability in recent weeks.
After the worst loss in the club's history, James made a phone call to France to good friend Greg Bird to seek reassurances regarding his ability to lead the team as the players vow to ease the pressure on Henry with a vastly improved showing against the Dragons at UOW Jubilee Oval on Saturday afternoon.
In their meek surrender to the Broncos last week the only signs of life from the Titans came when James crashed into Brisbane winger Jordan Kahu and bundled him across the touchline early in the second half, the tackle sparking a mild melee for which James Roberts would later be fined for landing a left on the chin of James in the scuffle.
For a brief moment it was the type of inspirational show of physicality that you often need from your leaders and while it was a regular part of James's game in the past such impact has been noticeably absent this season.
A history of being one of the most penalised players in the competition led to James deciding to change his ways but Henry said there had been no directive from the coaching staff to curb his aggressive nature.
"It's not about me letting him rediscover that aggression, it's up to him to have that aggression," said Henry at the end of a tough week for the club.
"No one puts a caveat on him and says you can't be aggressive. If you're in the front row you should be aggressive and that's his game.
"He hasn't been told to hold back on aggression. Our defensive line should be aggressive all the time and when we're passive and not coming forward and on the front foot, then we're vulnerable to teams rolling down the field.
"It's not like he's had a handbrake put on him around that. It's something that he needs to be comfortable with and have as part of his game."
Averaging just over 62 minutes per game this year and making 114 metres and 37 tackles a game, Henry correctly points out that his role as an impact player has changed to become something of a workhorse alongside Jarrod Wallace in the Titans' front row.
Without Bird in the team the Titans are devoid of a player in their squad with an aggressive intent that can intimidate opposition teams and James conceded that it has been a balance with his captaincy duties that he has been struggling to get right.
"I've given away way too many [penalties] over the last couple of years," James said.
"It's just a thing that I've been trying to work on. You sort of go to try and do it and then you think that you can't give away two penalties a game and now that I have to go and talk to the ref I can't be penalised as much.
"I've just tried to take away the ones that don't really need to be given like laying on the ball.
"It's in me but I've just got to try and control it better.
"That's why I've been questioning my leadership lately but with a little bit of tweaking I can definitely do a couple more of those things."
Named as co-captain with Kevin Proctor prior to the season kicking off, James has been forced to carry the captaincy responsibilities by himself since the mid-year Test in May but Henry has no doubt he is the right man to lead the club.
"I'm confident in his leadership ability. He's learning as he's going, he admits that he's a young leader and got some senior men around him," Henry said.
"You look at things and start to second-guess yourself when things don't go the way as planned.
"You plan to get a result, you plan to play competitive football and you plan to win games and when that doesn't happen sometimes you can jump at shadows a little bit and get a bit of self-doubt and lose your confidence.
"He's an honest man and he wants the club to do well and he wants to represent his region in a better way."