The winless Titans could be forced to wheel out their fourth different halves combination in five games as five-eighth Tyrone Roberts continues to manage the after-effects of the Achilles injury he suffered in round one.
With Head of Performance and Culture Mal Meninga making a rare appearance to cast his eye over the session, Roberts was a notable absentee from Tuesday’s training along with prop Shannon Boyd and energetic interchange forward Keegan Hipgrave.
Roberts made his return against the Warriors last week after leaving the field with an Achilles strain 12 minutes into the season but was kept off the training paddock three days out from the clash with the Panthers at Cbus Super Stadium on Friday.
Titans medical staff remain confident that the tendinopathy in Roberts’ ankle – the same injury restricting his cousin James Roberts at the Broncos – can be managed and will settle down in the coming weeks but his availability to face Penrith won’t be known until after Thursday morning’s captain’s run.
It opens the door for AJ Brimson to reunite with Ash Taylor in the halves after the pair played 11 games alongside each other last season for four wins.
Taylor admitted he was rusty in his first game for the year against the Warriors and back-rower Bryce Cartwright told NRL.com that the constant chopping and changing is making it hard to establish continuity in attack.
"You feel like you're building a combination with someone and then someone else comes in,” Cartwright said.
“No two people are the same, everyone has a different style. AJ is really fast and sparky with the way he plays and Tyrone is really skilful.
“It is hard to adjust but in saying that we play at a high level and we have to be able to adjust.
"It does hurt missing Tyrone but AJ is a quality player so we just have to adjust to it.”
A starting half in the Titans’ first three games of the season, Brimson sparked the Gold Coast attack when he came on in the 51st minute against the Warriors and says that he will be ready should Roberts fail to prove his fitness.
"Obviously it's been a shaky start to the year with injuries and niggles but I think Tyrone will be sweet to play this week,” Brimson said.
“I think they're just being a bit careful and not rushing him out in the middle of the week.
"I'm pretty confident he'll be out there playing this week.
"I've jumped in and out of a lot of positions throughout pre-season so whether I'm left half, right half, fullback or off the bench I'm pretty comfortable with connections and combinations.
"Obviously we really need a win to kick-start our season and it doesn't really matter how we get it, as long as we get it.”
Despite their precarious position – not since Newtown in 1933 has a team lost their first four games and won the premiership – veteran fullback Michael Gordon would prefer to see Roberts sit out if there is any doubt he can get through the game.
"Obviously we had some injuries at the start of the year so that makes it hard,” Gordon conceded.
"I'm not sure how Tyrone's going at the moment but if he’s going to hobble through the game you'd rather he not play and get it right rather than go into a game and potentially not finish it.
"AJ trained outstanding and him and Ash were really good last year so if he plays I'd be super stoked for him and know that he's going to do a job.”