IT was not unusual that Brad Takairangi handled the five-eighth position with such in the win against the Knights at Newcastle last Sunday.
While he breaks the physical typecast for five-eighths at a rangy 194cm, ‘Taka’ played most of his junior football in the Cronulla juniors wearing the No. 6 jersey and represented the Sharks S G Ball (under-16s) in the position.
Only when he shot up in height did he move out to the centres for the Sharks under-18s rep side while still five-eighth for Cronulla Caringbah and stayed there when picked up by the Rabbitohs before debuting in the NRL for the Roosters in 2010. They later moved him to the back row.
“I played just about all my junior football at five-eighth and feel comfortable there, and like getting my hands on the ball more,” Takairangi said. “You can play more direct there and use the ball, so hopefully it’s a chance to show a bit more skill.”
WHILE talking about the five-eighth position, Aidan Sezer has made great progress with his recovery from a pectoral tear suffered in the round 10 loss to the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium in round 10 (May 16).
He was diagnosed them of being out for a minimum 12 weeks and possible 16, and if he returns as he hopes to in a fortnight it will be 13 weeks. He may return in Queensland Cup to get some match fitness and ‘touch’ under his belt before John Cartwright considers him for the last few rounds of the NRL season.
TOM Kingston is the player who will drop off the five-man Titans bench announced on Tuesday with the decision dictated by the NRL’s second-tier salary cap restrictions faced by all clubs.
Just to explain to fans how it works: the top 25 players in an NRL squad are captured by the NRL salary cap which has a base of $5.5 million which stretches by $900,000 with marquee player, long-service and motor vehicle allowances.
Beyond that is a ‘second tier salary cap’ where a maximum $440,000 can be accounted on a club’s cap (in base contract fees) to the remaining players in the NRL squad who may play first grade in that season.
Should injuries determine – and it happens at several clubs each season – that more players than anticipated need to be called on or even players in say the second or third years of a contract have to be factored in at a higher figure on the cap than their base contract fee because of first grade incentives received the season before – clubs can appeal to have the second-tier restrictions relaxed.
Successful applications by the Titans enabled Kingston to play three previous games while the back-row stocks were badly affected with injury or suspensions to Ash Harrison, Greg Bird, Cody Nelson, Dave Taylor, Paul Carter, Caleb Binge and Ryan James.
However the return of Bird, Taylor, Carter and now Nelson, who is also a second-tier player and, because he played NRL before Kingston this year must take preference in the cap, has meant that Kingston was unable to be selected this weekend.
THERE will be few grand final teammates left in the Eels side Daniel Mortimer will face tomorrow. Mortimer was two weeks short of his 20th birthday when he debuted for the Eels in round 12 of ’09, and formed a new halves pairing with Jeff Robson (now at Cronulla) that took the side from 14th position to the grand final – predominantly on an extraordinary run of form by Jarryd Hayne that saw him gain 21 Dally M points from a possible 24 in the last eight rounds.
The only other remaining Eels from that period are Fuifui Moimoi, the oldest player in the NRL this weekend at 34, Ben Smith who is on the bench tomorrow and Tim Mannah who the Titans are expecting to be a late inclusion in their side.
‘THE AXE’ Trevor Gillmeister, the Titans popular but hard-nosed assistant coach, is an archetypical working class man and one of the fittest 50 year olds around.
So it was only appropriate that he was invited (or I suspect he invited himself?) on stage by a band at a Newcastle pub after last Sunday’s win against the Knights to sing the Jimmy Barnes classic ‘Working Class Man’, to the wild applause of the Novocastrian audience.
Let’s just say the Axe’s won’t be invited to the next auditions for The Voice but he did know every word off by heart!
WHILE Dave Taylor deservedly received praise for his big runs against the Knights, winger Kalifa Faifai Loa’s stats weren’t far behind. Big Dave ran for 234m from 18 hit-ups while Kalifa made 233m from 19 runs – great stats for a winger.
TITANS V EELS - THE MATCH UP
Played: 10 – Titans 7 wins, Eels 3.
Last 3: 2013 – Gold Coast won 42-4 at Mudgee and 28-22 at Skilled Park; 2012 – Gold Coast won 24-16 at Skilled Park.
At Cbus Super Stadium: Titans 4 wins, Eels 1.
Tries scored in 2014: Eels 64, Titans 50.
Tries conceded: Titans 60, Eels 76.
Line-breaks per game: Eels 5, Titans 3.
Offloads per game: Titans 13, Eels 9.