The Titans’ marketing campaign has been based around the ‘Blockbuster’ theme in 2014, and there is no clash at Cbus Super Stadium that matches the format more than the Titans-Rabbitohs clash tomorrow night.
All the lead-up media discussion has been the confrontation of two physical packs – the monster Rabbitohs set led by the Burgess threesome, who are the best roll-forward forward group in the NRL, and the tough scrappers from the Gold Coast led by Australian Test teammates Greg Bird and Nate Myles.
One only has to think back to the first game of the ’14 NRL season when Souths’ giants did a demolition job on reigning premiers Sydney Roosters to know what destruction that can forge on the field. Their form has been inconsistent since but the iSelect Titans only have to think back to the last time the two sides met to recall what the Rabbitohs are capable of – a 32-4 victory in round 20 at Cbus Super Stadium last year, when – to use Bird’s words “we were beaten up”.
Coach John Cartwright is not expecting anything different from Souths this time around, just an expectation from his side that they will stand up a lot more physically.
“They have a simple formula that has worked for them for the last two or three years, they’re a big side and very aggressive and play a yardage orientated game and then they have Greg Inglis at the back who can capitalise like no other,” he said.
“I don’t think they’re any tricks there, it’s whether we can match them in the middle of the field and whether we’re good enough to close Inglis out.
“When two forces hit, and no one is going to give or take, there are going to be sparks fly, that’s the same with footballers when they both hit at speed and no one concedes there are going to be sparks fly and when we do that we play our best footy.”
Myles and Bird, specialists at bringing State of Origin level intensity into their club performances, will need to lead the way for a Titans pack missing regular props Luke Bailey and Matt White, replaced by Ryan James whose aggressive game has been impressive in the past two rounds, and Mark Ioane in his second NRL appearance of the season.
And while Sam, George and Luke Burgess (if he stays in the selected 18) lead a big pack of forwards, the little men also loom as a threat in City halfback Adam Reynolds and Isaac Luke’s replacement hooker Apasai Koroisau who has been a real handful when running the ball in recent rounds.
Titans hooker Beau Falloon roomed with Reynolds during their City Origin camp last week and the two little men will be in the thick of the collisions around them tomorrow.
It was relieving news to have halves Aidan Sezer and Albert Kelly declared fit to play after both trained freely this morning. Outside them is William Zillman who is returning from a hamstring injury and could not retain his fullback position.
Zillman was a half/five-eighth during his junior years and was only switched to fullback in the under 21s at Canberra when Todd Carney and Terry Campese were the halves, and he has played occasionally at centre since.
But he has looked confident in training and Cartwright feels Mead at the back and Zillman, who will be team captain when Myles and Bird are missing during the Origin series, could add another dimension to the team.
Injured centres Brad Tighe and Maurice Blair should return the following weekend, and the suspended Paul Carter and White, and injured Bailey, are also on target to return, so the pressure to perform to retain a position in the side is another incentive against the Rabbitohs.
Souths, captained by John Sutton who grew up with Falloon, are likely to be intact with one player dropping off their bench.
Kick-off is 5.30pm.