Gold Coast Titans: 2018 NRL season preview
In recent years, results have not been kind to the Gold Coast Titans. Out of sorts in the eyes of some, change was needed. They opted for Garth Brennan as their new head coach.
Inexperienced at NRL level, Brennan has received plenty of plaudits from the Penrith NSW Cup teams he coached, particularly for his man-management skills and relationships he forms with players.
For a team yet to discover their identity, fans will be hopeful the recent changes can be the start of working towards something special or, at the very least, some level of consistency.
Rebuilding takes time, and although the Titans seem to be on the right path in this regard, you would probably not expect them to feature in the top eight in 2018.
What's new for the Titans in 2018?
More like what isn't new … the Gold Coast club has hired coach Garth Brennan who is yet to make his NRL coaching debut.
The Titans also start the year under new owners Rebecca Frizelle and Darryl Kelly with ex-Broncos Chairman Dennis Watt appointed Executive Chair.
The NRL strugglers haven't just revamped their off-field staff, backing captain Ryan James to lead the team on the paddock.
Plus the departure of Jarryd Hayne resulted in a signing frenzy, with the club securing the services of Bryce Cartwright, Michael Gordon, Jai Arrow, Brendan Elliot, Keegan Hipgrave, Mitch Rein, Leilani Latu, Brenko Lee and Will Matthews.
The Titans have a travel-free opener hosting the Raiders, followed by a quick trip across the ditch to play the always unpredictable New Zealand Warriors in round two.
But the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games has complicated their schedule in April.
The boys in blue go regional in round three (Toowoomba versus Dragons) and round five (Gladstone versus Sea Eagles) – this is where the draw could sting them.
In a positive twist, the highlights may well be the response they are likely to receive from the rugby league fans of Toowoomba and Gladstone, who have never previously had the opportunity to watch an NRL game in their hometown.
Origin impact will be minimal, with the Titans only losing their rep contingent for the round 17 meeting with the Broncos at Cbus Super Stadium. Jarrod Wallace and Nathan Peats appear the most likely players to be missing.
Any Titans representatives in Origin I will have just two days to recover before hosting the Rabbitohs at Cbus Super Stadium in round 14.
The team will travel 19,400 km over 25 rounds, the sixth highest mileage. Spare a thought for the Warriors who are airborne for 59,605 km.
The stat that gives you hope
Titans fans, you can start sending your thank you cards to Michael Gordon now.
The supporting fullback's 2017 average of 21.4 supports/decoys sat him just outside the top 10 across the NRL, but still well ahead of Kane Elgey, the Titans best in this category with 16.5 support plays a game.
Hold onto that stat – it's the best the Gold Coast have got.
As for fan-favourite Anthony Don, a shoulder reconstruction followed by an infection has prolonged his return. He was the top try-scorer for the side in 2017. Expect to see the classy winger return by round three.
What you need to know NRL Fantasy wise
Despite a stack of new faces at the club, tipsters still shouldn't look past old heads like Ryan James and the playmaking talents of Ash Taylor.
James was the Titans' best NRL Fantasy performer last season but was still below the form he showed in 2016, when he scored 12 tries and averaged 60 points a game.
Last season's 48-point average is a tick under the 50-point mark you want from an elite front-rower. But a new era under coach Garth Brennan could bring the best out of James and friends.
Your two best value buys are looking like Bryce Cartwright and Jai Arrow.
This year is a fresh start for Cartwright and his Fantasy prospects could improve significantly if he grabs a starting spot. Arrow follows in Jarrod Wallace's footsteps, moving from a Broncos bench player to a potential starting role at the Titans.
All eyes are on Garth Brennan this season and the critics will be quick to jump on him if success doesn't come early.
Brennan has an extensive resume at lower levels, including winning both the Intrust Super Premiership and the State Championship for the Penrith Panthers last year.
The 45-year-old will make his NRL coaching debut at Cbus Stadium on Sunday, March 11 against the Canberra Raiders.
It's no secret Brennan shares a strong relationship with Penrith Panthers General Manager Phil Gould and has openly sought advice. Hwe also signed Bryce Cartwright, Leilani Latu and Mitch Rein from his former club.
Since day one, Brennan's vision remains to futureproof the club and use local talent.
"I really want to focus on developing from within, that's what I believe is my strength. It's what I take away from my two previous clubs, I want to work closely with the individuals, I want to get to know them and work together to build that culture that everybody talks about.
Brennan will become the first ''Garth'' to lead a side in the NRL and he will have his work cut out with the Titans in need of a drastic turnaround following a tumultuous year on and off the field in 2017.
It's arguably one of NRL's worst kept secrets. Penrith utility Tyrone Peachey has been linked to moving north to the glitter strip after this season.
Key trio Ryan James, Nathan Peats and Kevin Proctor are all signed on for another three years, but Kane Elgey's contract is up at the end of the year.
Oh and a message to players – if you were born and/or bred on the Gold Coast – coach Brennan has his eye on you. He is "future-proofing" the Titans, a point he has made clear since taking over the top job last October.
The burning question
It's simple. The halves.
Kane Elgey struggled to find any real form or consistency last season. Not to mention, Elgey and Taylor's failure to fire.
Pray that Ash Taylor and Elgey have been practicing their goal kicking at training - their percentages weren't great in 2017. From 91 attempts the pair managed to convert 58, meaning 66 points were lost.
Jarrod Wallace overtook Ryan James as the club's most penalised player, while Dale Copley leads try causes – not a statistic you want your name next too.
Remember the name Jai Arrow – moved his life down the M1 and so far, so good, if not grand.
Brennan has touted him the gutsiest and one of the strongest in pre-season and was part of the Maroons Emerging Origin camp in January.
Titans fans, don't be surprised if you see him in Maroon this June.
AJ Brimson is another Titan to keep your eye on. The 20-year-old halfback was recently elevated to a fulltime contract and like Ash Taylor comes from a touch football background.
If Elgey struggles with confidence like he did in 2017, Brimson will make his debut quicker than expected.
The player you should follow on social media
Konrad Hurrell for LOL's on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/koni_hurrell/?hl=en
According to Garth Brennan, prepare yourselves for an "entertaining" style of football from the Titans.
NRL.com expert Jamie Soward says…
"The Titans biggest strength this year is a new coach and a fresh start. They just have to go out and play rugby league this year and not over complicate things.
"I had to pick someone and unfortunately the Titans finish 16th."
Alexander Brimson, Anthony Don, Ashley Taylor, Brendan Elliott, Brenko Lee, Dale Copley, Kane Elgey, Karl Lawton, Kiah Cooper, Konrad Hurrell, Michael Gordon, Philip Sami, Tyronne Roberts-Davis, Bryce Cartwright, Jack Stockwell, Jai Arrow, Jai Whitbread, Jarrod Wallace, Joe Greenwood, Keegan Hipgrave, Kevin Proctor, Leilani Latu, Max King, Mitch Rein, Morgan Boyle, Nathan Peats, Ryan James, Ryan Simpkins, Tony Matautia, Will Matthews.
Note: These club squads are subject to change. Each club is required to submit 29 of their official 30-man playing squad to the NRL by March 1. The final spot in these rosters can remain free up until June 30.