The Titans are likely to have close to a full squad available for the two trial matches in February after starting the season in just three weekends’ time at the Auckland Nines.
Nate Myles, who had minor surgery before Christmas after some scar tissue subsequent to his shoulder and bicep operation caused some discomfort, and Greg Bird who suffered a medial ligament injury in mid-December, may not be available until the final trial match against the Cowboys in Cairns on February 21.
However, head coach Neil Henry is keen to have two good hit outs – against the Warriors in Toowoomba and then against the Cowboys a fortnight later in Cairns, as so many positions in the side are so open. Kevin Gordon and Matt Srama are others who may miss the opening trial as they recover from major off-season surgery.
Of course, before the two trials comes the Auckland Nines on January 31 and February 1, with a potent side to be decided on next week but likely to include newcomers Josh Hoffman, Lachlan Burr, Matt Robinson and Davin Crampton and speed men Will Zillman, David Mead, Anthony Don and James Roberts.
While Hoffman may be the only ‘big name’ signing for 2015 there have been significant changes to the squad which has brought intense competition, and depth, for positions across the park.
For example Zillman, Hoffman and Mead are in contention for the fullback role but can play other backline positions. In the three-quarters there is Mead, Hoffman, Roberts, Gordon, Kalifa Faifai Loa, Brad Tighe, Anthony Don who will be given time in the centres in the trials, plus Crampton and Jamie Dowling who can play centre, wing and back row, and Dave Taylor who was such a success in the centres last year. And a young flyer called Leva Li, who has played for Parramatta and Wests Tigers, is trialling for a contract.
The halves rely on youngsters Kane Elgey, the NRL’s Holden Cup player of the year, Jamal Fogarty and Christian Hazard as back-up to Aidan Sezer and Daniel Mortimer.
The back row is rich in young talent behind internationals Greg Bird and Taylor, even with Paul Carter having been cut. Lachlan Burr is a prospect to look out for, Matt Robinson was impressive in the Panthers’ run to the finals last year, Ben Ridge is back from injury, Ryan Simpkins is training well, triallist Jai Ingram has potential plus speed and power, and Binge impressed in the back end of last season. And Nate Myles can drop back if needed.
The front row is where there is enormous depth despite the loss of Luke Bailey. David Hala has come from the Broncos, joining Myles, Ryan James, Luke Douglas, Matt White and Mark Ioane who found his feet in the NRL in the last few rounds of 2015. Then we have triallists in Agnasius Paasi, who debuted for the Warriors last year (and can play second row) and Damien Sironen.
Meanwhile, the hooking depth is as good as any club’s with 2015 player of the year Beau Falloon, Matt Srama and newcomer Keirran Moseley with Hazard likely to spend some time there in the trials.
The first trial will be played on Saturday February 7 in Toowoomba at Clive Berghoffer Stadium where the Titans drew over 8500 last year for the match against North Queensland and brought $75,000 revenue to rugby league in city.
The Titans will again do coaching and promotional work in the city in the lead-up to the match, as part of the strong association that has developed with the Toowoomba Rugby League and the Clydesdales club.
The weekend following the Titans-Warriors trial sees the reintroduction of the All Stars match at Cbus Super Stadium on Friday February 13 with several Titans players likely to be involved.
On February 21 the Titans will travel to Cairns for their final hit out against the Cowboys at Barlow Park, Cairns, with the opening NRL round being at Cbus Super Stadium, against Wests Tigers (6pm).
Sat 7 Feb | Titans v Warriors | Clive Berghoffer Stadium, Toowoomba | Tickets
Sat 21 Feb | Titans v Cowboys | Barlow Park, Cairns