Daniel Nichols continues his NRL clubs reviews. Today he looks back on the Gold Coast Titans season.
Fan Prediction: Top 8
Where It Went Wrong: If not for a horrible injury toll at the club, the Titans may have been playing finals footy in 2013. Superstar centre Jamal Idris was the victim of a broken leg just as started to re-find the form that made him one of the market’s hottest free agents in years when he left the Dogs. Halfback Albert Kelly, who without a doubt the Titan’s best in attack all season missed 5 games through injury whilst Aidan Sezer missed 4, robbing the Titans of their two attacking halves. First choice dummy half Matt Srama was also unlucky with injury in 2013 whilst front rower Matt White missed the entire season with a knee injury.
Any team who only puts together 4 wins away from home is going to find it difficult to make the top 8. Although the Titans were able to win 7 home games, they ultimately suffered due to their poor away form. A nail biting loss to the emotional Sharks was certainly no cause for embarrassment but big away losses to Newcastle and Penrith, both games the Titans would have pencilled in as great opportunities to win away from home, came back to haunt the Gold Coast club.
The Titans lack of depth was again costly in 2013. Injuries to key players as mentioned before combined with the missed games of senior players Bird, Myles etc left the Titans less experienced players exposed. Unfortunately for the Titans their under 20’s side only avoided the competition’s wooden spoon by a single point whilst their feeder club was battered from pillar to post in an unsuccessful season. Although some younger players did gain valuable NRL experience and can only be better for it, the Titans will be looking to their recruits in 2014 to provide the depth they struggled with in 2013.
Where It Went Right: Titans fans will be very excited about the bright future of their young halves combination. Aidan Sezer continues to improve with every game and seemed to enjoy the added responsibility that came with the departure of Scott Prince. The Titans had every excuse to worry about their halves with Prince heading North to the Broncos but in Albert Kelly they have found a long term creative halfback to partner Sezer. Kelly had his best year at NRL level and after showing signs of brilliance in his time with the Sharks especially, looks to have finally realised just a player he can be. If Kelly is able to continue to stay out of trouble as he did this season, the sky’s the limit for the excitement machine. Kelly scored 11 tries and contributed 13 try assist, stats that any halfback in the competition would be proud of.
The Titans all Origin back row again starred for the club in 2013. Nate Myles averaged over 100 metres a game as well as almost 40 tackles a game as well as starring for the Queensland Origin side. Greg Bird led the way for the Titans and the Blues averaging a massive 130 metres a game. His experience and toughness, especially in defence is invaluable to club and state. Ashley Harrison continues to prove himself to be one of the most under rated forwards in the game.. Although he does not have the name value of Bird and Myles, there is no doubt he is just as important to the Titans pack. Luke Douglas, who has seemingly played 200 games straight continues to improve, as his forward partner Luke Bailey continues to defy age with his performances.
Unfortunately for the Titans, superstar centre Jamal Idris broke his leg, robbing the club of their strike centre in the run in to the finals, but before his injury Idris was starting to reach the form that saw him grab an Origin jersey. Idris was a marquee signing for the Gold Coast club and if he can return from his injury in the form he was in before his injury then 2014 could be a fruitful season. Dave Taylor, another player who can be extremely inconsistent with his form had a brilliant second half of the season and looks back near his destructive best. Another marquee signing and a genuine gamebreaker out wide, Taylor has all the tools to be amongst the game’s elite.
Verdict: Although they missed the finals, it’s hard to fault the Titans in 2013. They managed to return 2 of the game’s most destructive wide runners to close to top form, whilst forming a halves partnership that is both youthful and experienced, and chock full of talent. More importantly they made 2 big off field signings, adding the brilliant Neil Henry to their coaching ranks and moving former NSW Minister of Sport Graham Annesley into their head office. Last year the Titans were unstable off field and it transferred to the on field form. 2013 was a year they established a stable front office, and a long term halves combination. Missing the finals by one win would have hurt fans of the Titans but most will be looking toward 2014 with much excitement.