Jack Bird was Wayne Bennett’s prize signing for 2018, but after a dismal first season in Brisbane – thanks in large part to shoulder and sternum injuries – his future at the Broncos is in doubt.
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The Titans experienced a nightmare 2017 season winning just seven games and finishing in 15th position.
Can they bounce back in 2018 without Jarryd Hayne and under rookie coach Garth Breenan or are they in for another long season?
15th, seven wins, 17 losses, 448 points scored, 638 points conceded
Last five seasons
Ninth, 14th, 14th, eighth, 15th
The Titans were one of the big flops in 2017, finishing in second last position after making the finals in 2016. Many thought they could improve on 2016 and establish themselves as a finals club given Jarryd Hayne had had an off season under his belt and Kane Elgey was coming back from a knee injury.
While Hayne never produced anywhere near his best and bore the brunt of the criticism, the whole side just looked a shadow of the tight knit and competitive unit they had built under Neil Henry in 2016.
Eventually some heavy defeats late in the season led to the coach’s demise. The side was a mess defensively, playing with nowhere near the same grit, conceding a whopping 638 points at an average of over 25 points per game.
Injuries certainly were not kind to them for large parts of the year, with the club unable to put out a full strength side until late in the year when they were virtually out of contention. However, their resilience in games wasn’t up to scratch.
Jai Arrow (Broncos – 2020), Mitch Rein (Panthers), Jack Stockwell (Knights), Jai Whitbread (Broncos – 2018), Leilani Latu (Panthers), Will Matthews (Dragons), Michael Gordon (Roosters – 2019), Brenko Lee (Bulldogs – 2018), Bryce Cartwright (Panthers – 2021)
Chris McQueen (Wests Tigers), Agnatius Paasi (Warriors), Nathaniel Peteru (Leeds), Pat Politoni (Burleigh), Leivaha Pulu (Warriors), Tyrone Roberts (Warrington), Dan Sarginson (Wigan), Tyler Cornish, Chris Grevsmuhl, Eddy Pettybourne, Ryan Simpkins, Daniel Vidot (released), William Zillman (released), Jarryd Hayne (Eels), John Olive (Bulldogs)
The Titans looked like they had failed to land a big name all off-season, despite having room in their cap, until they snared Bryce Cartwright from the Panthers on a long-term deal in February.
Cartwright is a fabulous talent as a backrower, however had a nightmare 2017 with injuries and off-field dramas plaguing him throughout the season. There is no doubt he has rep quality talent-wise, but whether he can get his mind focused on football on the glitter strip that is the Gold Coast would have to be a big question mark on it.
Despite Michael Gordon being right at the end of his career, he is a decent signing as he provides an experienced head from a winning culture, which is something the Titans lacked last season. Concerning for the Titans would be some of the depth lost in their forwards with the likes of Chris MacQueen, Agnatius Passi, Nathaniel Peteru and Leivaha Pulu all moving on.
It was right to part ways with Jarryd Hayne whose heart never looked in it at the Titans, while the likes of Vidot and Zillman failed to provide much output last season.
Head coach – Garth Brennan (first season)
Garth Brennan was announced in November as the Titans’ next head coach for the next three seasons, as he finally gets a crack as a head coach in the NRL.
Brennan has long been touted, having served a long apprenticeship in coaching. He boasts an impressive resume, dating back to 2003, where he started his coaching career as Newcastle Knights Jersey Flegg Assistant Coach.
The 45-year-old has since coached Premiership wins at NYC and NSW Cup levels, culminating in his 2017 double victory, winning both the Intrust Super Premiership and the State Championship with the Penrith Panthers.
While I think Brennan has his work cut out for him to turn this franchise around quickly, he comes in at a decent time of low expectations with not many people expecting big things out of the Titans this season. That should allow him time to settle, and time to build the roster, with a couple more key signings over the next twelve months.
Most important player – Ash Taylor
I think it was huge for the Titans that they managed to re-sign Taylor in the off-season for a further three years, as their franchise halfback.
Some of the big guns like the Broncos were chasing Taylor, given the immense potential he has shown in his first two seasons in the NRL. While his rookie season was spectacular, leading the Titans to the finals, Taylor’s form fluctuated last season, and he didn’t quite reach the heights he did in 2016, with the second season often being a tougher one for young players in the NRL.
With Jarryd Hayne gone, perhaps Taylor can find his voice again this year, and really take control of this team as the dominant playmaker, as he did in 2016. If he can’t, the Titans don’t have the sort of roster that can make an impact in 2018.
2018 likely side
1. Michael Gordon, 2. Brenko Lee, 3. Konrad Hurrell, 4. Dale Copley, 5. Phillip Sami, 6. Kane Elgey, 7. Ashley Taylor, 8. Leilani Latu. 9. Nathan Peats, 10. Ryan James, 11. Bryce Cartwright, 12. Kevin Proctor, 13. Jai Arrow. Bench -14. Karl Lawton, 15. Morgan Boyle 16. Max King, 17. Will Matthews – Unavailable: Jarrod Wallace (suspension), Anthony Don (shoulder), Keegan Hipgrave (suspension), Jack Stockwell (shoulder)
2018 Verdict – 13th
I wouldn’t be surprised if the Titans look a fair bit more focused and get some better results in 2018. Michael Gordon and Bryce Cartwright are solid signings and I expect Ash taylor to have a better season now his future is settled.
I think the Jarryd Hayne circus last season was a fair distraction and, under a new coach this year, they are a side that when going under the radar are likely to perform better. I still think their forwards’ in particular lack depth, and a few injuries could really make this Club wooden spoon contenders.
Their best 17 is capable of winning a few more than seven games, as they did in 2017. However, I think an overall lack of depth and power in the forwards will see them finish closer to the bottom of the table than the Top eight this season.