NRL: Titans continue to improve under Holbrook

@Hayward_AdamK

The Gold Coast Titans may have endured a horror 14-game losing streak over 364 days, but they have now recorded two wins since the resumption of the competition – defeating the Wests Tigers in round 4 and last weekend’s emphatic victory over the Brisbane Broncos.

Although two wins from the first seven rounds is not impressive by any stretch, at least we have seen improvement in their performances, even in the games they’ve lost.

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In round one, last year’s grand finalists the Canberra Raiders, shot out to an early 18-point lead and it looked inevitable they would put a huge score, but the 2019 wooden spooners showed some resilience to finish 6-all in the second half.

They were competitive against the Parramatta Eels in the first half of their round 2 clash, before a late blowout in the second. They trailed 26-6 at halftime in their round 5 clash against Souths, but instead of throwing in the towel, they got into the grind to finish 6-all in the second half. Same again in their round 6 matchup with the Dragons, trailing 14-2 at halftime, they fought hard for another 6-all result in the second half.

Performing well for only 40 minutes won’t win you many games in the NRL, but it’s a far cry from most of their performances in recent seasons, where they seemingly gave up when it got too hard.

This season, you can see they are putting in the effort and they are doing their best to stay in the fight, regardless of the scoreline.

In their round 4 victory, they came back from a two-try deficit twice to stun the Tigers 28-23 with a late try to seal the match.

They haven’t received much credit for their biggest ever win over Brisbane, with the media narrative solely focused on how bad the Broncos are going.

The truth is, the Titans outplayed, outmuscled and outclassed their northern neighbours in every aspect of the game, because they were more enthused and more desperate to get the result.

They had a game plan to tire the Broncos forwards by throwing the ball around, including early shifts in their own half. They continuously strolled up the field with ease, executed well, defended well and the Broncos were unable to match their energy.  

New coach Justin Holbrook deserves much credit for the belief and toughness instilled into his players and he is doing as well as anyone could with the limited roster he has.

Young forwards Moe Fotuaika, Sam Lisone and Jaimin Jolliffe will make up the Titans engine room for years to come and they are developing nicely.

Ash Taylor is slowly but surely rediscovering his best football after Holbrook shifted him from halfback to five-eighth to lessen the burden of having to manage the side, so he can focus on his own game and inject himself when he sees an opportunity. 

He is currently ranked equal-third on try-assists with seven.

Holbrook hasn’t been afraid to drop big names if they are not performing. Representative players Jarrod Wallace, Nathan Peats, Shannon Boyd and Bryce Cartwright have been dumped from the side.

He has sent a message to his players that if you’re not willing to have a dig and perform well, you’re out of the team. It is as simple as that and from what we have seen, the rest of his players are responding.

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The Titans have had their fair share of injury troubles to cope with, losing captain Ryan James to an ACL injury, as well as experienced utility Tyrone Roberts for the opening six rounds.

The indefinite loss of live wire fullback AJ Brimson to a back injury has been a huge blow for the Titans but they finally have a quality replacement, recruiting the ultra-competitive Corey Thompson from the Wests Tigers to bring much needed experience to their backline.

The club has recruited in-form Melbourne forward Tino Fa’asamaleaui for 2021 and they are desperate to land the signature of close mate David Fifita. If Fifita agrees to join the Titans, he could potentially lure other quality players to the club as well.

The Titans have had discussions with Cowboys premiership winner John Asiata, who is off-contract at the end of this season. He would be an ideal lock forward replacement for Souths-bound Jai Arrow.

Asiata is a hybrid; a prop with the skillset of a halfback. He would stiffen up the Titans middle-third and be the link between the halves when attacking the opposition’s goal line.

The Titans need to be on the look out for a quality hooker. It would be fair to say Nathan Peats, off-contract at this end of this season, is well past his best.

The only way is up for the Titans after finishing last in 2019. They’re currently 13th on the ladder and although a finals spot might be unrealistic, a pass mark would be finishing higher that the bottom four and earning an upset win against one of the top sides.

Titans fans should have plenty of faith in Holbrook. A premiership winning coach in the English Super League and he is already showing his worth since moving to Gold Coast by picking this side up off the canvas.

They are currently going through a rebuild and the club has the resources to become successful. The right coach, the right systems already in place and the right support staff. The players train out of a $25 million-dollar, state-of-the-art high-performance centre and they are blessed with the beautiful 27,400-seat capacity Cbus Super Stadium in Robina.

If you look at the likes of Canberra, Parramatta, Manly and Newcastle, they also spent the past few years rebuilding and they are now challenging for the premiership.

If the Titans can get their recruitment right over the next year or two and build a balanced roster, they too could be challenging for a premiership in the not-to-distant future.

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