Titans coach Justin Holbrook wants a “collective” response from his forward pack against South Sydney as stats reveal the Gold Coast are becoming too reliant on their left side weapon David Fifita.
Holbrook spared the axe on his team after last week’s 36-0 embarrassing loss to Manly, hoping pride would generate a strong response for their toughest game of the season thus far in Friday’s clash with the Rabbitohs at Cbus Super Stadium.
While Tino Fa’asuamaleaui will miss the game due to suspension and Anthony Don returns from injury on the wing, Holbrook is offering a second chance to his men to aim up after they were humiliated by the Sea Eagles.
And it’s in the forward pack where they were most disappointing with Fifita the only starting forward to make more than 100 metres – his 154 metres almost double the next best in Fa’asuamaleaui with 78 metres.
What has become evident over the opening six rounds is that the Titans are so focussed on getting Fifita the ball that right side second-rower Kevin Proctor is being left out in the cold and they risk becoming too predictable.
Titans v Rabbitohs - Round 7
Proctor has seen his average metres per game drop to just 58, the lowest in his career since 2012, while Fifita is peaking at almost triple with 152 per game.
In round one Proctor ran for 114 metres as the Titans utilised their co-captain knowing Fifita had been ill in hospital leading up to the game, but since then his best output was 69 metres against the Cowboys.
Proctor has been immense in defence and his contribution has always gone beyond simple statistics, but with successive weeks of 42 metres, 31 metres and last week’s output of 46 metres it’s clear the Titans could benefit from shifting right more often even if just to take the load and expectation away from Fifita.
Holbrook said he expects his entire team to lift after the Mudgee mauling and was confident Moeaki Fotuaika would be a handy addition to the starting side in place of Fa’asuamaleaui.
“We were disappointed last week but it’s all about how we bounce back. I don’t think anyone deserves to miss out on one poor performance,” Holbrook said.
“Prior to that we played five decent games and we haven’t won every week I know that but I’ve been happy with everybody. It’s all about giving them a chance to bounce back.
“I think everybody does (need to lift) and I think collectively they do. They’ve got a pretty strike backline as well so we’ve just got to make sure we play to our strengths.
The season so far: The first six rounds
“Moe's job doesn’t change whether he is starting or coming off the bench. Obviously no Tino is a bit careless or reckless whatever you want to say from him last week and he has to pay the price for now and we move on.
“We give Sam McIntyre his first game and he has been brilliant for Tweed, he has been their best player the last couple of weeks so it’s good to reward players who work really hard.”
After Tom Trbojevic destroyed the Titans last week, Holbrook took some solace in knowing the Bunnies were without their own suspended star in Latrell Mitchell, but warned his team the gun fullback’s replacement was equally dangerous.
“(Mitchell) is a great player and I guess from what Turbo did to us last week I’m happy aren’t I (that he’s not playing),” Holbrook said.
“Alex Johnston has played plenty of fullback and he is going to bring different strengths to them and he has got a lot more energy and involvement than Latrell but we know that Latrell when he gets involved he makes it count.
“They’ve got plenty of strike players without Latrell playing so we have plenty to worry about still.”