Keegan Hipgrave has apologised to coach Garth Brennan for being sucked into the baiting of Broncos forwards last Sunday and says he is out to avenge the loss of discipline against the Sydney Roosters - a pack that could be even more aggressive.
The 21-year-old, who is courting offers from three Sydney clubs, will start in the second row after lasting just 17 minutes against the Broncos because of a concussion. In that period he was twice involved in dust-ups that earned him cautions from referee Henry Perenara and his side conceded two penalties.
The Titans need controlled aggression from the local product in a team that has lost left centre Dale Copley for the season through a hamstring injury and will wait on the fitness of Maroons’ State of Origin forwards Jai Arrow and Jarrod Wallace and under 20s five-eighth AJ Brimson.
Konrad Hurrell will start in the centres for the first time since round nine after which he was dropped for Brenko Lee as right centre. His two games since have been on the wing against the Roosters in round 12 and last weekend off the bench against the Broncos.
Hipgrave can make a difference against the Roosters if he can keep his aggression but temper his over-exuberance.
"Playing against his old team [Hipgrave played two seasons of under 20s with Brisbane], there was a little bit of spite in there and Keegan got caught into it a little too much," Brennan said.
Images of Round 17
"He has apologised to me for it and said he had learned from that. He got baited and he took it. That’s a 21-year-old still learning and making mistakes at NRL level he will learn from.
"He feels he has let the team don with his ill-discipline. Keegan is a guy who wears his heart on his sleeve, he is passionate and players love playing with him because he has that little bit of an edge."
Asked if the lesson against Brisbane may be a turning point, Brennan replied: "I hope so, the last few suspensions and sin-binnings haven’t worked and maybe this will.
"He is passionate and doesn’t want to let his mates down and he was dirty on himself because he felt he let his mates down and that’s what he’ll learn the most from."
Brimson would have to play his third game in eight days if he backs up from being starting five-eighth in the Justin Hodges-coached Maroons under 20s.
Kane Elgey is on standby for a recall for the first time since round seven if Brimson is injured or rested.
Coaches Speak - Round 17
The Titans have not made their former golden boy an offer for next season and he has been courted by English clubs Warrington and Catalans and at least two NRL clubs.
"AJ wanted to play on Wednesday night and I am not going to rule a guy out who wants to represent his state at any level," Brennan said.
"He knows his body best, we will see how he pulls up and Kane Elgey is in our 22-man squad and is more than capable of fitting in there if AJ feels fatigue or suffers an injury."