Elliot poised to fill potential Hayne vacancy
It will be a storyline that lingers until the Titans run out in Round 1 but the continued speculation over Jarryd Hayne's future on the Gold Coast has potentially significant ramifications for new recruit Brendan Elliot.
Having begun pre-season at Parkwood amidst plenty of familiar faces and not too far from where he completed high school, Elliot has set his sights on locking down a position in the Titans' backline, whichever position that might be.
Debuting with the Roosters as a 20-year-old winger in 2014, Elliot has played predominantly wing and centre in his 37 NRL games to date but spent seven of the first nine weeks of the 2017 season at fullback for the Knights.
Outside of Hayne it is a position that the Titans are completely devoid of NRL experience so if the superstar fullback who is currently playing five-eighth for Fiji in the World Cup does decide to head home to Sydney as has been reported, new coach Garth Brennan has very few options at his disposal.
If Hayne was to leave the Gold Coast the club would have a war chest with which to go to market but given that most teams have now returned for pre-season, finding a quality fullback at short notice is likely to be troublesome.
Rumours that William Zillman could still be offered an NRL lifeline and re-sign with the Titans continue to circulate but club officials reaffirmed to NRL.com that the veteran outside back is not in their plans for 2018.
No other member of the current Titans squad other than Hayne or Elliot has started an NRL game at fullback and while Dan Sarginson played a Super League Grand Final for Wigan at the back his injury-plagued 2017 season has him pushing simply to find a place in the 17.
Elliot didn't want to be drawn on whether he could possibly fill the shoes of Hayne but did say that both he and Brennan are eager to lock him into a position in the backline long-term.
"Garth said he would give me a try in every position in the back five so I guess we will see how that goes," Elliot said.
"In saying that I would love to cement a certain spot within the squad next year so I can create different combinations whether it's inside or outside.
"That is definitely one of the major things for me. Previously I have been jumping around positions and things like that and Garth told me [that is] not his plan for me this year.
"He does reckon I'll get a certain spot but whether that's wing, centre, fullback, not sure. We will just have a go throughout the pre-season."
Following a mid-season switch from the Roosters in 2016, Elliot made 23 appearances for the Knights yet was part of just the one win as the team collected the latter two of their hat-trick of wooden spoons.
Coming from a club with such a proud history of success at the Roosters, the 23-year-old conceded that being something of a senior figure in a losing side was a difficult experience but one that he believes will be of benefit at his new club.
"It was a tough 18 months being down there, I only played in one winning game," Elliot recalled, that one win coincidentally coming against the Titans in Round 2 this year where he played fullback and scored a try.
"That was really tough. Also coming up here it's more so for myself to prove that I can do it and it is enjoyable at times," he said.
"Whereas in Newcastle it was a tough 18 months and it was a hard slog at some points.
"At the Roosters I was always the youngest player out there and youngest boy in the squad. Going to the Newcastle team I was one of the more experienced, older boys in the squad.
"I learnt a bit of leadership I feel but also controlling my attitude and controlling my thoughts when things don't always go my way.
"It was more mentally sort of thing I learnt a lot which was good for me. I'm definitely excited to be up here."