The iSelect Titans know they can’t afford to be off the pace early against a Canberra Raiders side tomorrow that are making their first appearance at home under new coach and club legend Ricky Stuart.
The poor start in oppressive conditions against Wests Tigers at home last Sunday proved telling for the Titans, and there has been a real purpose and focus about their work all week after the uncustomary flat effort, by a squad determined to be up-tempo and composed defensively like they were the previous round against the Sharks.
Good news today was that hooker Beau Falloon trained well and will start the match. Ashley Harrison’s switch to five-eighth effectively gives the side an extra forward against a big Raiders pack who are noted yardage gainers, although they are without World Cup back-rower and danger man Josh Papali and workaholic Shaun Fensom.
Greg Bird will take over Aidan Sezer’s goal-kicking duties. Sezer’s injury should only put him out for one week.
“We have to be ready for their start, we can’t afford to be coming from behind like last week when we were behind by 10 early in those conditions,” said coach John Cartwright. “They are coming off an away win so it won’t be easy.
“But the boys have trained well; they just want to get back onto the field.”
Cartwright is confident Harrison’s switch will work well. “I think it was the least disruption we could have had, as we were able to leave Albert and Zilly [fullback Will Zillman] where they are. Ash has come in and done the job in the past and we have some injuries in those positions so it was the best way we could go.”
Anyone who has seen the Raiders’ first two performances under Stuart – a loss after leading against the Cowboys and a decisive win against Newcastle – will be aware of the danger fullback Anthony Milford presents from the back, so the Titans’ kick chase will have to be tight and the right edge, where Milford likes to look for opportunities, has to be solid.
Carty is certainly aware of Milford’s capabilities with the ball.
“When the game was there to be won last week he was the one they went to and he was dangerous against the Cowboys the week before so he is a handful, he’s very quick and plays with great instincts, so he is the key for them.”
Titans supporters can rely on a much more energetic and determined effort from a team hurting from the blow-out in their first home appearance for 2014. The coaching staff and team have copped the criticism and not wanted to offer any excuses but it was apparent that several players were below par due to a virus that outed Mark Minichiello late in the week and affected other players more than they were expecting.
That’s history though. The players know their only redemption can be on the field. And that’s what’s great about the NRL during a season that sees only two teams (Melbourne and St George Illawarra) unbeaten two games into the third round – it’s on again the next week with any game hard to predict at this time of the season and attitude on game day is the key.
For Titans fan attending to attend the match in Canberra, go to the Legion social media links to find out how you can organise to watch as a group: Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/TitansLegion or Legion Twitter is: @titanslegion. They will gather in Bay 64.
TITANS (starting line-up not confirmed): Zillman, Gordon, Tighe, Takairangi, Mead, Harrison, Kelly, Douglas, Falloon, Bailey, Myes (capt), Taylor, Bird (capt). Interchange: White, Minichiello, Carter, James.
RAIDERS: Milford, Robinson, Croker, Allwood, Lee, Wighton, Campese (capt), Tilse, Butriss, White, Kennedy, Edwards, Vaughan. Interchange: McCrone, McIllwrick, Shillington, Boyd.
Referees: Badger, Suttor. Kick-off: 6.30 EST, 5.30pm Qld.