Copley expects tough slog in defence against Warriors
Gold Coast centre Dale Copley knows defensive statistics don't lie. And that's why he's expecting opponents to target the Titans' left side defence in the early weeks of the competition.
Yet he is confident, particularly as time together is extended, that the team's 'leaky' left edge will hold tight.
It's no secret that opposing teams targeted the Titans' left last season that had several changes to its make-up but most times featured Copley at left centre with half Kane Elgey inside him.
NRL's stats gurus report that 46 percent of tries conceded by the Titans were down the left side, compared to 36 percent on the right. Copley, who only joined from Sydney Roosters in round four, is listed as the defender most responsible for 'try causes' with 30, ahead of Elgey with 19.
They only played eight games as a left-side combination, with an array of wingers and left back-rowers either side of them, yet they know they will remain a target.
This season they have skipper Ryan James placed inside on the left edge and young winger Phil Sami outside, and Copley says he craves some stability in the combination.
The left was near faultless against Canberra's dynamic combination of Blake Austin/Sam Williams, Elliott Whitehead, Joey Leilua and Jordan Rapana, save Leilua's try off an Austin cross-field bomb tapped back to him in a scramble.
Match: Warriors vs Titans
Venue: Mt Smart Stadium
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On Saturday, life gets no easier against Warriors' wizard Shaun Johnson, Tohu Harris, Peta Hiku and David Fusitua.
"After last year we'll see a fair bit of traffic [being sent at the Titans' left edge] especially in the first six to 10 weeks, probably all year," Copley confessed.
"So it is important for us to defend well and keep turning teams away.
"It's not really a motivating factor, what people are saying about it."
Copley says about the criticism of being leaky on that side of the field. "It's more that we knew last year it wasn't good enough.
"As every team does in the pre-season, they work on their defence and we were no different. It was not just us but the right side and the middle.
"Edges come under a lot of stress from opposition attack and we have to be better. Having a full pre-season really helps, I only got here in round 4 last season but we have had a full off-season together now.
"We didn't have a heap thrown at us on the weekend but we contained a pretty formidable edge there so we can take a bit of confidence out of that.
"Hopefully, we can string some games together and get some consistency there with what we're doing and what we want to achieve.
"Ryan is obviously a really big body and he's got a really big motor. He's a good talker, so he provides Kane with a lot of confidence in telling Kane what he's going to do and he always turned up."
Elgey looked more confident and comfortable with his good mate James beside him for about half of the match and Will Matthews the other time than he was last year after coming back from an ACL injury then carrying a painful chest injury for the last few weeks. And Copley said he felt more confident after a good pre-season when all players were on deck.
Yet the proposition Johnson, brilliant against the Rabbitohs last week, presents is master-class.
When asked how they counter his pace, brilliance and unpredictability across the field in tandem with recruit from Manly, Blake Green, Copley admitted: "I couldn't tell you what he's going to do; I don't think he could tell you.
"He's pretty out of the box and plays what he sees, so you've got to make sure he's not seeing anything and cut down his time and space.
"It's a big challenge; he's pretty special when he wants to be."