Coach Cartwright needs a miracle

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    The Gold Coast Titans take on the Eels in Darwin. (Digital pic by Robb Cox © Action Photographics.)

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    Some will tell you the Gold Coast Titans are going to be okay. That they are in a strong position for a red hot go at the 2013 finals. Others think differently.

    It hasn’t been the smoothest of rides heading into a new year for the Gold Coast club. They have released their only legitimate first grade halfback in Scott Prince and granted Beau Champion his wish to return to South Sydney.

    Champion’s departure can be managed. But with Prince now at the Brisbane Broncos, the Titans are in the unenviable position of picking the best of an unproven bunch to solve their number seven issues.

    Prince might well be passed his best. But whatever the internal problems were, coach John Cartwright needed to stick with the former captain for at least the first ten rounds of the 2013 National Rugby League season.

    If Prince finds form, it will be at the Broncos and not at Robina. And what if Cartwright’s young posse of playmakers fall flat?

    Granted youngsters like Daly Cherry-Evans, Trent Hodkinson and Adam Reynolds have all come into the NRL and performed like stars. But all three hadn’t been recycled. All three hadn’t been burnt by the NRL before.

    Cartwright has previously stated the Titans can be a force without Prince and recently backed Albert Kelly to return to the NRL fold this season.

    “His work ethic has been tremendous,” Cartwright told The Gold Coast Bulletin last week.

    “He’s coming out of a part-time environment into a full-time environment and the workload can be a bit of a jolt to the body.

    “If he hasn’t been able to run he’s made up for it in the gym, altitude room or pool.”

    Jordan Rankin, Beau Henry and Kelly are all options at halfback for Cartwright.

    But all have had their problems in the top grade. Unlike young stars like Cherry-Evans and Reynolds, these three all have their fair share of mental baggage.

    Henry was touted as a huge prospect after winning the 2009 Toyota Cup player of the year at St George Illawarra.

    Then-Dragons coach Wayne Bennett talked Henry out of a deal with the North Queensland Cowboys, only to be cut by Bennett when he arrived at the Newcastle Knights. He only played six games for the Knights.

    Rankin was unbelievably thrown to the lions at 16 years of age by coach Cartwright in 2008. The youngster has rarely been seen since.

    Kelly, regarded as the best of the three, has had plenty of his own issues on and off the paddock. Who will ever forget that night against the South Sydney Rabbitohs in 2011 at Shark Park where Kelly was bombarded time and time again?

    “It’s too hard to make a call watching them at training,” Cartwright continued.

    “They’ve all showed composure and that they know the style of footy we want to play. The trials will be a big gauge for how they’re going.”

    Damaged goods always need time to repair, which is why it’s so hard to fathom Prince’s release. Surely the Gold Coast could have shown some patience and not pulled the trigger on Prince so quickly.

    One of these three might come good and Cartwright’s head will be removed from the chopping block. But you don’t just discard a legend for the sake of it.

    Especially when your backup plans are questionable to say the least.

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