Despite battling pancreatitis, a shoulder reconstruction and a shoulder infection in the off-season, Anthony Don has been named to start on the wing by Gold Coast Titans coach Garth Brennan at Cbus Super Stadium this Sunday versus the Canberra Raiders.
On the other wing is Philip Sami, who has edged out fellow young gun Tyronne Roberts-Davis for the role. Forward recruits Jai Arrow and Leilani Latu will start in the front-row with Bryce Cartwright named at lock. Joe Greenwood drops off the bench with Max King and Will Matthews named on the bench. Mitch Rein has also been named on the bench at hooker.
Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has named Siliva Havili to make his debut at hooker, beating Craig Garvey for the role, who is named in the reserves. Sam Williams has been named at halfback to play alongside Aidan Sezer, with Blake Austin a handy off the bench as the utility.
Joseph Tapine will start in the back-row and shifts Elliott Whitehead to lock and Iosia Soliola to the bench.
The Gold Coast Titans have had an injury-disrupted pre-season campaign but the late arrival of Penrith forward Bryce Cartwright gives them an extra dimension in attack, while Michael Gordon will be a stable influence at the back as well as a reliable goal kicker.
The key match-up: All eyes will be on the halves and the hookers in this game. Can Kane Elgey and Ash Taylor start off the season the right way? Will the Sam Williams over Blake Austin experiment work and how well will Siliva Havili fare in place of the injured Josh Hodgson?
For Canberra Raiders to win: Hold onto the ball. If the Raiders can do that they can put points on almost anybody in the competition with their backline that is buzzing with talent and ability to find the line.
For Gold Coast Titans to win: Senior players such as Ryan James and Bryce Cartwright will have to lead from the front as the side tries to gel amid massive player turnover this off-season.
Canberra Raiders stat attack: The side will be hoping to replicate their 87 per cent completion rate the last time the side's met in round six last year, which was their second highest completion rate for the season, resulting in a 42-16 victory.
Gold Coast Titans stat attack: A tough year for the Titans saw them win only four of their 12 home matches, while averaging less than 20 points a game. Gold Coast will also be hoping for much luck with injuries this season, having used 34 players and 10 rookies in 2017.
And another thing: This weekend mark's Ricky Stuart's 100th game in charge of the Raiders, while the man leading the Titans Garth Brennan is making his debut in the NRL.
Match: Titans v Raiders
Round 1 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium
The prediction: Raiders by 12.
Cbus Super Stadium, Sunday March 11, 5.30pm (6.30pm AEDT)
Head-to-head: Played 20, Titans 11 wins, Raiders 9 wins.
Last five games:
- Round 6, 2017; Canberra Raiders def. Gold Coast Titans 42-16.
- Round 16, 2016; Canberra Raiders def. Gold Coast Titans 30-22.
- Round 4, 2016; Gold Coast Titans def. Canberra Raiders 24-20.
- Round 24, 2015; Gold Coast Titans def. Canberra Raiders 28-12.
- Round 9, 2015; Canberra Raiders def. Gold Coast Titans 56-16.
2017 points per game: Titans 16.4; Raiders 22.4.
2017 points conceded per game:
Televised: Live on Fox League
Titans: 1 Michael Gordon, 2 Anthony Don, 3 Dale Copley, 4 Konrad Hurrell, 5 Phillip Sami, 6 Kane Elgey, 7 Ashley Taylor, 8 Jai Arrow, 9 Nathan Peats, 10 Leilani Latu, 11 Kevin Proctor, 12 Ryan James (c), 13 Bryce Cartwright
Interchange: 14 Mitch Rein, 15 Max King, 16 Will Matthews, 17 Morgan Boyle
Reserves: 18 Joe Greenwood, 19 Jai Whitbread, 20 Tyronne Roberts Davis, 21 Aj Brimson
Raiders: 1 Jack Wighton, 2 Nick Cotric, 3 Jarrod Croker (c), 4 Joseph Leilua, 5 Jordan Rapana, 6 Aiden Sezer, 7 Sam Williams, 8 Junior Paulo, 9 Siliva Havili, 10 Shannon Boyd, 11 Josh Papalii, 12 Joseph Tapine, 13 Elliott Whitehead
Interchange: 14 Blake Austin, 15 Luke Bateman, 16 Dunamis Lui, 17 Iosia Soliola
Reserves: 18 Charlie Gubb, 19 Brad Abbey, 20 Royce Hunt, 21 Craig Garvey
Match officials: Main referee: Henry Perenara, Assistant referee: Dave Munro, Touch judges: Adam Cassidy, Rohan Best.