Titans 2017 season review
When people reflect on the Titans' 2017 campaign they will invariably think of Jarryd Hayne.
For better or worse his arrival last August brought the club the type of exposure it hadn't seen in its first 10 seasons in the Telstra Premiership and when things turned sour on the field it quickly spiralled out of control off it.
Star recruit Kevin Proctor was stripped of his co-captaincy responsibilities in May after allegations relating to drug use whilst in camp with the Kiwis and Hayne's ankle injury and shifting between fullback and centre became a distraction more than a solution.
The Titans finished the year in 15th position but coach Neil Henry didn't even make it to the end, sacked after the Round 24 loss to the Eels in what was portrayed as a stand-off between he and Hayne.
Just days after Henry's sacking Hayne sensationally claimed that the coach had been leaking information to a journalist from before the start of the season and that he suspected he had done it again late in the year, effectively driving a wedge between the pair whether it was a figment of Hayne's imagination or not.
Even Hayne's take-up of a one-year contract extension in his favour became a sideshow as he and his management waited until the last possible minute before confirming that he would be staying on the GC in 2018 and taking up the hefty pay packet.
Although he returned to the Origin arena with New South Wales Hayne failed to deliver on the promise expected of a player on his wage at club level and he will remain a controversial figure as long as he stays at the club.
Injuries were a legitimate excuse as the losses mounted and Hayne, Nathan Peats, Kane Elgey, Chris McQueen, Konrad Hurrell, Kevin Proctor, Ryan Simpkins, Dan Sarginson and Karl Lawton all spent extended time on the sidelines but very rarely did they look like a playing group pulling in the same direction in unison, the very quality that endeared them to the competition in 2016.
There is a core group of players capable of pushing for finals football in their near future, they just need the right men to lead them on and off the field.
Where they excelled: For much of the season the Titans had no problem crossing the stripe - at one point ranking second for tries scored – but that trend dropped away incredibly after their Round 20 loss to the Panthers. After scoring 71 tries through the first 18 games at 3.94 tries per game the Titans scored just nine in their last six games at an average of 1.5 per game. Although at times he looked to be struggling with the load of carrying his side halfback Ash Taylor furthered the high opinion held of him with an equal NRL high of 19 try assists, the majority of which came from his pin-point kicking game.
Where they struggled: In addition to finding a fit 17 players to put on the park the great struggle for the Titans in 2017 was defending their own try-line. Only a brave effort against the Roosters in Round 26 prevented them from conceding the most points in the premiership with the nadir coming in Round 22 when they suffered the worst loss in the club's 10-year history, a 54-0 humiliation at the hands of arch rivals the Broncos. The constant reshuffling of the 'spine' may have hurt their attack but defence is an indicator of effort and in the back half of the season that was alarmingly absent. Road trips were also a major problem, their only success in 12 away games an upset of the Sharks in Round 8.
Missing in action: No team used more players in the 26 weeks of the premiership than Gold Coast's 34 with 10 players making their NRL debuts and 17 representing the Titans for the first time in 2017. The injury curse began well before the season even began with Nathan Peats, Ryan Simpkins and Pat Politoni all suffering serious injuries in a trial against the Warriors and Jarryd Hayne injuring his ankle at the Auckland Nines before aggravating it again in Round 2. The loss of Peats for the first six weeks hit the Titans particularly hard, the tenacious No.9 returning in the 24-22 loss to Brisbane and then sparking a three-game winning run. By the time Round 26 came around the Titans still had 10 members of their first grade squad sitting on the sidelines. It is the fourth time in the past five years the Titans have used more than 30 players in a season.
Turning point: Going into the Round 20 clash with the Panthers in 12th spot the Titans were riding the wave of a three-game winning streak they hoped would propel them into the top eight. They lost Konrad Hurrell inside nine minutes with a hamstring injury but had the better of the first half until Waqa Blake pounced on a loose ball and ran 70m to level the scores five minutes from half-time. Then, trailing by four points at the midway stage of the second half, the Titans saw Matt Moylan gleefully accept an intercept off Ash Taylor and race 40m to extend the lead to 10 points and secure the win. The Titans were woeful from that point on, conceding 178 points in their next five games and scoring just 42, ultimately leading to coach Neil Henry losing his job.
Hold your head high: He did look out of sorts at times in 2017 but Ash Taylor showed great heart to back up from his Rookie of the Year season in 2016 and be the only Titans player to appear in every game this year, finishing with 19 try assists, five tries and 38 goals. Winger Anthony Don was one of very few to enhance their reputations, earning a well-deserved Country Origin jersey while Jarrod Wallace went from bench prop at the Broncos to Queensland Origin forward in his first season at the club. Youngsters Max King and Morgan Boyle also impressed in their rookie seasons.
2018 crystal ball: Hard to predict what may happen when we don't yet know who the coach will be but Nathan Peats should be strongly considered to take up the captaincy on a permanent basis and lead a much more committed Titans team in 2018. King, Boyle, Keegan Hipgrave and Jai Arrow give Gold Coast a young core of hard workers while Brenton Lawrence's arrival from Manly provides much needed back-up for Ryan James and Jarrod Wallace up front. If the halves can click and Jarryd Hayne comes back with a point to prove there's no reason to suggest the Titans' roster can't push for a top-eight finish.
Conclusion: Tipped to build on their surprise finals appearance last season the Titans were beset by issues from the pre-season with injuries and rumours of in-fighting and despite claiming some big scalps never got higher than 11th on the ladder all season. The drop-off late in the season was so alarming to the board that they sacked coach Neil Henry two games from the end and must now find the right person to bring together a playing group that was lacking in leadership all season.
Home Record: 4-8
Away Record: 1-11
Longest Winning Streak: 3 games (Round 8-10, 16-19)
Longest Losing Streak: 7 games (Round 20-26)
Players Used: 34
Tries Scored: 83
Tries Conceded: 112