NEIL Henry is considered by many as an astute tactical thinker, but even he didn’t have to go to the whiteboard to plot the iSelect Gold Coast Titans path to the finals on Sunday in the Dick Smith NRL Auckland Nines.
“We are the first game tomorrow (Sunday). We win and we are in the finals,’’ the Gold Coast’s new assistant coach said.
“In our pool all four teams have won one game. So whoever wins the opening two games (in the Titans Blue Pool) will go through. It’s a pretty simple equation.”
The Titans were guilty of a Jekyll and Hyde performance in the opening day of the inaugural Nines tournament. In their first outing against the Wests Tigers they embraced the concept almost to perfection. They played mistake-free, exciting football to topple the Tigers 22-7.
However as coach John Cartwright pointed out, the steel behind that win was an awesome defensive performance.
There was little similarity in the Gold Coast’s next pool clash, a disappointing 25-14 loss to Newcastle.
“You have to control your possession and we came up with a few errors in that game,’’ assistant coach Henry said in summation.
“We turned over possession too much and the game is so short. You have very little time to recover. We didn’t make any errors in the first game, but came a little unstuck in the second.
“There is such a brief window to turn things around and the Knights made the most of their opportunities. We just need to make sure we learn from that in a sudden death game with the Sharks.”
The other major difference between the Titans Game 1 and Game 2 was Dave Taylor. The Titans backrow monster is a handful in the 13-a-side game. In the opening encounter today he showed he is a frightening force in Nines. With size, power and an amazing skill set for a big man, Taylor was the muscle behind the Titans early domination against the Tigers.
A bruise just above the knee put him out of contention for the Knights game. Taylor is still a chance of playing on Sunday, depending if swelling eases over night.
“He (Taylor) is a very dangerous player and he showed that in the first game today,’’ said Henry.
“We are hopeful that the cork settles down. He will ice it up tonight and if he can run around tomorrow, he will play.”
The former Cowboys mentor said the Nines concept was working well.
“It is a bit of an unknown, a new concept for everyone,’’ Henry said.
“There was a big crowd here today and great buzz. It is a real shot in the arm for the game here and in general. It is showcasing some great players. I can only see it growing.
“There will be a bit of a wait and see as far as what tactics you really need for this form of the game. But some things don’t change and that is controlling your own possession and we were guilty of turning the ball over and we paid the price.”
While any wins on the second day would be a great morale-booster for the Titans, Henry is reluctant to read too much into Nines success.
“In the context of 13-a-side, it is a vastly different game so you don’t read too much into it,” he said.
“Plus there are some key players who are not playing here. We are missing players like Aidan Sezer and in the hooking role we are without (Matt) Srama, (Beau) Falloon and (Sam) Irwin and those types of players are crucial in this sort of game.
“But we are having a crack and we just need to play mistake-free footy and get the points when they are on offer.”