There is a real battle for on-field supremacy between Queensland rivals the Titans and Broncos and season 2021 will kick off with the Gold Coast ahead.
That is real. It doesn't matter what happens this weekend, and I have picked the Broncos to win on Saturday night, but this season has solidified the Gold Coast as the number one Queensland team across a lot of areas.
I do believe that the 15th-placed Broncos will bounce back quickly though and I get the sense already there is a lot more optimism within the team and the club about what is ahead.
The Cowboys have had a successful era with Johnathan Thurston the linchpin and are now rebuilding but I want to make this column about the Titans and Broncos.
Historically the Broncos have had the upper hand, apart from the two seasons in 2009 and 2010 when the Titans made the finals under John Cartwright.
This season the Titans will finish ahead of the Broncos on the ladder and have everything in place for next season.
They have re-signed their coach Justin Holbrook until the end of 2024 and he has brought his team together really well, in the last three months in particular. I like the way Holbrook carries himself and I know that he has already got the respect of all his players.
Titans v Broncos - Round 18
The Titans have done some great recruiting for next year with David Fifita, Herman Ese'ese and Tino Fa'asuamaleaui on the way and it looks like it is all happening for them in 2021.
Tino has become the dominant young forward in the game at the Storm and David has had most of this season off with injury so is just working his way back into his best. Next year those two will be the Titans' bash brothers.
Gold Coast halfback Jamal Fogarty has been one of the great success stories of the NRL across all clubs. A couple of weeks ago Fogarty stepped up as a leader to win the game against the Dragons and that is the kind of form he has displayed all year. The Titans have their spine mostly in place for next year, which is so important.
Holbrook has got Ash Taylor back up and running at five-eighth and off the field as well. AJ Brimson at fullback has put on muscle and is a real dynamo. I'd like to see Mitch Rein settle in for an extended run at hooker.
The Titans have a solid pack as it is with Moeaki Fotuaika, Keegan Hipgrave, Jarrod Wallace and company so the guys they are bringing in will give them real clout. I see the Titans having a real crack at making the eight next year.
The Broncos are primed to make up the ground. The players were mentally cooked with Anthony Seibold's coaching and couldn't understand the game plan or the complexities of what was being told to them, and on top of that they were getting walloped.
They are already looking a lot happier and are playing a lot better with Peter Gentle at the helm. Even though they lost last week against the competition leaders Penrith, there has been a shift in their mindset and they are defending for each other.
Fifita primed for Titans clash
That is a real positive and I see light at the end of the tunnel so long as they make the right decision on their next coach. I am certain Kevin Walters can mould this team into a real force again.
Going forward the Broncos will get back in the player market and still remain a drawcard for players from other clubs, as the recent NRL players poll showed.
There is a core of young players at the Broncos that they can build a team around. Halfback Tom Dearden, centre Kotoni Staggs and prop Payne Haas are three standouts. Throw in Herbie Farnworth, Xavier Coates, Jake Turpin and Pat Carrigan and there is the making of a top-eight side. The Broncos just need to recruit some experienced and proven performers to go with them.
The improvement in the Titans is only good for the Broncos. Brisbane will want to make sure this season is just a blip on the radar. They will start next year behind the Titans but I am confident they will ultimately catch them.