Gold Coast fans have every right to be among the most optimistic in the league heading into 2021, with star signings on the way, a strong core to build around and an impressive finish to the season under their belt.
They just missed out on finals football with a ninth-placed finish in the abbreviated COVID-19-affected campaign, but the emergence of new Maroons fullback AJ Brimson as a genuine match-winner and of Jamal Fogarty as the cool-headed playmaking general they've been missing are both big positives.
Even bigger positives – both literally and figuratively – are the arrivals of representative superstars David Fifita and Tino Fa'asuamaleaui.
Both turn 21 in February but have already established themselves among the best forwards in the Telstra Premiership, and should help revolutionise a team that has been battling in the bottom half of the table for years.
A much-improved Ash Taylor, the rise of Queensland prop Moeaki Fotuaika and an impressive start to Justin Holbrook's tenure as coach rounds out the key talking points for a club that will be looking to build on the following numbers when the next season comes round.
Home & Away record
A middling record for the Titans regardless of whether they were playing at Cbus Super Stadium, which is both a positive and a negative – while they weren't able to make their home ground into a fortress, they also didn't fall apart on the road.
Run metres differential
This is one area in which Holbrook's men will be looking to improve dramatically next year, with Fa'asuamaleaui and Herman Ese'ese joining the exceptional Fotuaika in the middle of the park and Fifita certain to get plenty of ball-running opportunities on an edge.
While defensively the Gold Coast were fine, in attack they were among the worst in the league in gaining yardage last season.
Try scoring – game time
The Gold Coast's attack in general wasn't great for much of 2020, with their 64 tries ranking them 12th in the league.
But the 20-minute window before half-time was when they were most dangerous – running in 22 tries. Thirteen of those came between the 20- and 30-minute marks, with their next best scoring window the final 10 minutes of matches when they ran in 10 tries across the season.
Tries conceded – game time
Just as with their attacking game, the Titans didn't start or finish matches particularly well but they were strongest late in the first half.
A concern is the team's worst defensive period was the first quarter of matches, suggesting they may not have coped as well as others with the high-tempo speed of the game in the new six-again era for ruck infringements.
Tries scored/conceded from six-agains
While the six-again rule led to a quicker game in general – with teams loath to give away repeat sets by slowing the play-the-ball – it also presented scoring opportunities directly from those repeat sets.
The Titans found themselves on the wrong end of those, scoring just four times after being awarded another set of six from a ruck infringement but conceding 10 tries in those circumstances.
Metres gained from offloads
Not many clubs have a centre as their most prolific offloader but that was the case for the Gold Coast with Brian Kelly leading the way ahead of offload specialist Bryce Cartwright, prop Jarrod Wallace and playmaker Ash Taylor.
This is an area of concern, with Taylor landing just two thirds of his attempts at goal and fill-in option Fogarty not faring any better. With the league's best sharpshooters kicking at 80% or higher, the Titans were a step below the rest of the pack here, which can be costly in close games or potentially across a season when a team is sitting on the edge of finals contention.
Every club used between 27 and 32 players across the year in 2020, ranking the Titans in the middle of the pack in this category. In terms of injuries the biggest blow was the loss of Brimson to a back problem for the majority of the season, the livewire fullback restricted to just nine games.
His scintillating form in the run home – guiding the team to a five-game winning streak and earning himself a Maroons call-up – showed just how much the team had missed him before then.
Set completion rate
This can be a misleading statistic at times – a good completion rate doesn't necessarily translate to good performances, and vice versa. While the minor premiership-winning Panthers ranked highest in the league in this category, bottom-eight sides the Dragons, Warriors and Bulldogs also did well.
But a poor completion rate can certainly hurt a team's chances, especially when they have weaknesses elsewhere.
Giving up possession early obviously allows your opponents more chances to attack while reducing your own team's scoring chances.
For the Titans, a season-worst 75.5% completion rate across the season (including three games where that percentage dipped into the 60s and one where it fell to just 54%) coincided with the team finishing second-last in metres gained and fourth-last in points scored.
This is one of several categories in which they improved during their late winning streak (they completed at 78% or better in each of their five wins to close the season).
Tackle breaks per game
This is one area in which the Gold Coast struggled last season but could see a dramatic improvement next year, with tackle-busting forwards Fifita, Fa'asuamaleaui and Ese'ese joining the side.
With Fifita making five busts a game on his own this year, and Fa'asuamaleaui and Ese'ese adding a few each per game, it's easy to see the Titans bring this number into the 30s where they'd be among the league leaders (Penrith topped the count in 2020 with 36 per game).
2020 Form Guide
|1||Raiders||GIO Stadium, Canberra||Lost 24-6|
|2||Eels||Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast||Lost 6-46|
|3||Cowboys||Queensland Country Bank Stadium, Townsville||Lost 36-6|
|4||Wests Tigers||Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane||Won 28-23|
|5||Rabbitohs||Bankwest Stadium, Sydney||Lost 32-12|
|6||Dragons||Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane||Lost 8-20|
|7||Broncos||Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane||Lost 12-30|
|8||Sharks||Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast||Lost 10-40|
|9||Warriors||Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast||Won 16-12|
|10||Storm||Sunshine Coast Stadium, Sunshine Coast||Lost 42-6|
|11||Panthers||Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast||Lost 14-22|
|12||Roosters||Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney||Lost 18-12|
|13||Cowboys||Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast||Won 30-10|
|14||Sharks||Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney||Lost 30-18|
|15||Raiders||Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast||Lost 16-36|
|16||Dragons||Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney||Won 10-14|
|17||Bulldogs||ANZ Stadium, Sydney||Won 14-18|
|18||Titans||Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast||Won 18-6|
|19||Sea Eagles||Lottoland, Sydney||Won 24-42|
|20||Knights||Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast||Won 36-6|