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Utility value: Brimson set for upgrade as Mal shuns bench stigma

Mal Meninga sees the bench as AJ Brimson's best position, but that won't necessarily prevent the Titans young gun from cashing in on a breakout 2019 season.

Brimson will occupy the No.14 jersey for the Junior Kangaroos against France on Friday, having already been handed his senior rep debut by Meninga in Australia's victorious World Cup 9s campaign last weekend.

The 21-year-old shapes as the logical fullback replacement for Michael Gordon on the Gold Coast in 2020 as he enters the final year of his contract at his junior club.

Wests Tigers have identified Brimson as a playmaking target beyond next year, while he has also been mentioned in terms of a possible swap for forward Ryan Matterson.

But understands the Titans have recently discussed a two-year extension with Brimson that will be a significant upgrade on his current salary.

While he will be able to field rival offers from November 1, Brimson ranks as a retention priority for the rebuilding club after just 36 NRL games.

A local junior and graduate of famed nursery Keebra Park, he has been with the Titans since age 16 and bought property in the area earlier this year.

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Brimson's future and position won't be finalised until new Gold Coast coach Justin Holbrook gets his feet well and truly under the desk.

But Meninga, who balances Kangaroos coaching duties with a head of culture role at the Gold Coast, sees Brimson's utility value as the youngster's best asset.

"I think his best position is 14," Meninga said.

"There's this concept that players get in their minds and people get in their minds that you've got to start to contribute to your team.

"But it's a 17-man game now and your reserves are so important. If you're playing as a 14, as an example you can play [in the] halves or as a No.9, he can play fullback. He can play in the centres, he can play most positions in the side, in the backs especially.

"He can still play 60, 70 minutes of a game, you just don't know. It's just that starting stigma that can come with playing on the bench.

"I think his best position is 14 at the moment, and as he matures and gets more experience, finds his feet in a position then he might take on a 6 or a 1 role."

Brimson and fellow Australian representative Jai Arrow will be on deck when the Titans return to pre-season training on November 4.

Halfback Ash Taylor is also expected to be back on deck in their return to training while captain Ryan James will be ready to go as well having recovered from the ACL rupture that ended his season in mid-April.

The Titans are hopeful Holbrook can return Taylor back to his best after granting the young playmaker compassionate leave midway through the season.

Taylor continues to see a psychologist after his confidence and form dropped away starkly in 2019, while the Gold Coast would reluctantly consider releasing him from the final two years of his contract if it was in his best interests.

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Holbrook's first six weeks in charge of the Titans before Christmas will prove critical for Taylor and the entire squad given 2019's disastrous campaign.

"Ash is going well. It's up to the coach and his coaching team about where they play," Meninga says.

"Is Ash Taylor going to be a starting 7 for us? It's going to depend on how well he gets through the off-season and how much he trains, how much he impresses the coaching staff.

"It's up to the individuals at the club to show the new coach that they actually want to be at the club first and foremost, they want to be part of that first grade team.

"Justin's had great success over at St Helens and he's coming back to us rejuvenated and really keen to get his teeth into it.

"He'll form views on all our players over the off-season. He'll have a really strong opinion when we go into Christmas and then he'll make his own judgements along with the coaching staff around where people play."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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