Titans coach Neil Henry has selected a near full-strength side for the final trial match against the North Queensland Cowboys in Cairns on Saturday night.
International forwards Nate Myles and Greg Bird will have their first hit-outs of 2015 while newcomer Eddy Pettybourne will start from the bench and Aidan Sezer will return after suffering a cheekbone injury in the Auckland Nines.
Last year’s Paul Broughton Medal winner, hooker Beau Falloon, will miss the match because of a minor hamstring injury suffered at training and Mark Ioane a knee injury suffered in the trial against the Warriors but both are hopeful of being fit for the NRL season opener against Wests Tigers at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday March 7. David Hala has been ill and missed training, so will also not play.
It is sure to be a high quality final trial with the Cowboys also announcing a strong squad that includes co-captains Johnathan Thurston and Matthew Scott, fellow internationals Jason Taumalolo and Ben Hannant and brilliant young back Michael Morgan.
Henry said, while still a trial with an extended squad of 22 to play over two halves, it’s an important clash as the only match with the bulk of the likely round one side getting time together.
“There are certainly spots in the team which are still up for grabs, particularly in the three-quarters, and up front,” he said.
“We’ll rotate players in the backs and give Will Zillman and Josh Hoffman time at fullback and centre and look at some other combinations, with Ryan James dropping back to the second-row where he could be dangerous on the edge.
“The Cowboys are going to be one of the benchmark teams this season so it will be a valuable hit out for our guys, and the humid conditions in Cairns will be a test. But it’s a great promotion for rugby league to have two near full-strength NRL teams play up there.
“Beau suffered a grade-one hamstring tear at training and is obviously pretty frustrated he’ll miss the match but if it progresses OK he’ll be available for the first round.
“There are a couple of slight injury concerns we’ll look at before we leave but hopefully we’ll be intact.”
Nate Myles (capt)