iSelect Titans co-captain Nate Myles is out of the side to play St George Illawarra tomorrow, taking the list of forwards unavailable to nine.
Myles (shoulder) joins Luke Douglas who will miss the remainder of the season after the suspension handed by ASADA over the Cronulla Sharks affair, and Dave Taylor who is out for the second successive match.
They join NRL players of 2014 in Ryan James, Ben Ridge, Caleb Binge, Matt Srama and Ashley Harrison as forwards not available for selection this weekend, plus squad member Siuatonga Likiliki.
Myles will visit a surgeon next week to clarify the damage to his shoulder but is expected to need at least three-month recovery period which will rule the incumbent Test player out of the upcoming Tri Nations series.
Prop Matthew White will start the match in the front row and Tom Kingston and Maurice Blair come into the 17 for the clash at WIN Jubilee Stadium, leaving just one interchange front-rower in Mark Ioane as the club’s forward stocks are lower than probably any time in the Titans’ history.
“Nate has been battling on under duress for several weeks, it got to the point where he’s going to do further damage, so we thought it best to rest him,” said coach Neil Henry.
“We’re going to get him operated on and get hisshoulder and bicep fixed so he can get on with it and get a full pre-season under his belt.
“It is a bit of an injury crisis but Maurice Blair comes in and gives us some utility value, he has played left centre, in the halves and back row. We still have a team that is ready to go and determined to win our remaining three games and we are playing for a lot of pride.”
For Douglas, a widely respected figure throughout the game not just at the Titans, it is a sad way for him to end his game-wide record of 215 consecutive first grade matches.
It is also a tough blow for Albert Kelly, the other former Shark who was suspended, as well after he had fought his way back from injury last weekend and was due to play for Tweed Seagulls this weekend to enhance his claims for a return to the NRL side.
“It is shattering for Luke and Albert, and particularly ‘Dougie’ in that it is such a sad way for him to end the record run of consecutive matches,” said Henry.
“His integrity remains without question though and he has the full support of the club and his teammates, as has Albert.”
Henry expects the Dragons to be fired up for the clash with their finals hopes depending on victory and with the appointment of interim coach Paul McGregor for three years, it will give them a feeling of stability and incentive to do well.
The Dragons are two points out of the top eight and look as though they have to win the remaining three games to make the finals but the Titans are keen to be the spoilers with their final three opponents – the Dragons, Warriors and Bulldogs – all fighting for top eight positions.
A likely Titans side: William Zillman, Kalifa Faifai Loa, James Roberts, Brad Takairangi, Anthony Don, Aidan Sezer, Daniel Mortimer, Luke Bailey, Beau Falloon, Matthew White, Mark Minichiello, Greg Bird (capt), Paul Carter. Interchange: Mark Ioane, Cody Nelson, Tom Kingston, Maurice Blair.