Ridge becomes 7th absent back-rower

BEN Ridge is out of the Titans side for Monday night’s clash with Souths after failing to recover from a shoulder injury he suffered when he hit the ground after being knocked cold against the Dragons.
It means Tom Kingston goes a step closer to making his NRL debut at age 26, joining Anthony Don last season (aged 25) and Cody Nelson this year (25) as a late bloomer to come into first grade through the Queensland Cup.

No one can remember having more back-rowers unavailable at one time. Missing on Monday will be Ash Harrison (early retirement), Greg Bird and Dave Taylor (Origin), Ridge and Caleb Binge (injured, plus Ryan James (injured) and Nate Myles who could have dropped back from the front row (Origin).

Albert Kelly has trained well all week and will start the match from the bench.

HERE’S a bit of trivia as Mark Minichiello approaches the significant milestone on Monday night of playing his 250th first grade game, joining older brother Anthony as the third brothers only to have reached the 250 mark behind Steve and Kevin Walters and Steve and Chris Mortimer.

Current Titans coaching staff member Martin Lang was in the Penrith side that beat the Roosters 26-16 in Mark’s debut game in round 12 2002 (Mini came off the bench as a hooker).

That was the only NRL game the Minichiellos have played together although they played in the 2007 City team and competed for Italy in last year’s World Cup.

Luke Lewis (who played on the wing for the Panthers) is the only other player from Mark’s debut match still playing in the NRL (other than Anthony of course). A Roosters teammate that Saturday night was Luke Phillips, now an NRL referee.

And to show how much Souths have changed since Mark’s last match with the Rabbitohs in 2006 before he became a foundation Titan, Nathan Merritt and John Sutton are the only two Rabbitohs of that season still with the club (and both will play against him on Monday night).

LUKE Douglas headed home to Yamba on the bye weekend and while there proposed to his beautiful partner Adele. They plan to marry some time next year.

After announcing the news to teammates, ‘Dougie’, suspected of still having his school lunch money still in a piggy bank somewhere, was quick to deny rumours he bought the ring from the Yamba Ladies Auxiliary monthly second-hand stall or on Ebay, or even made it himself which at least one fellow Titan suspected. It was in fact made by Sam at Affinity Diamonds in Sydney.

Titans football manager Scott Clark is attempting his first half marathon tomorrow (Sunday) but is hopeful of finishing in time to be at the team’s training session before they finish at 10am. He’ll be the one limping when the team leaves Gold Coast airport later in the day.

Clarky, a former cheeky halfback and CEO with Burleigh Bears, has been in solid training for three months although his last two weeks of preparation left a bit to be desired.

MARTIN Lang will be back in the yellow shirt on the field at ANZ Stadium on Monday after Darrell Madge deputised for him brilliantly during the past two matches. Langy had been laid up with a knee injury suffered during a close encounter with ‘Big Sexy’ Dave Taylor while training.

IT will be interesting to see how many points will be required to make the top eight this season, with it generally regarded as the most open competition for some time.

Here is a guide: In 2013 after round 16 Newcastle were eighth on 16 points and 28 points was the final cut off (North Queensland with the Knights finishing 7th on 29); in 2012 after 16 rounds Wests Tigers were eighth on 18 and 28 got the Broncos eighth position (the Tigers finished 10th on 26) while in 2011 the Tigers stood were eighth on 16 with 10 rounds remaining and 28 was again the ‘cut’ (Tigers finished fourth on 34).

The last time less than 28 points saw a team make the finals was 2004 when Canberra needed just 26, after theyh held eighth spot after 16 rounds with 16.

So accepting that history and the fact Melbourne were eighth on 20 points going into this round (with six other teams) and have the bye this weekend (as do the Broncos, Eels and Warriors who are also on 20) it’s safe to assume it likely that a team will need 30 points to make the finals this time – unless you use the theory that the bunch of teams in the middle of the ladder will knock each other out and lower the threshold).

That means the Titans will have to aim for seven wins from 10 games to still be playing the second week of September.

TRIVIA: Luke Bailey is the oldest Titans player and third oldest in the NRL. Name the two who were born earlier (hint – one is a back, one is a forward).

LAST WEEK’S TRIVIA: The best kicking success rate of Aidan Sezer’s deputies in 2014 belongs to Daniel Mortimer with 100 per cent (one from one). The others: Greg Bird 73.7 per cent (14 from 19), Kevin Gordon 62 per cent (5 from 8), Beau Henry 60 per cent (3 from 5). Sezer was kicking at 88.9 per cent (16 from 18) when injured.