An Aquis Gold Coast Titans team that has almost been put back together after a mid-season injury run stunted some good early rounds momentum is ready to challenge the ladder leading Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium tonight.
There is always a buzz of expectation around the M1 derby and the Titans’ ‘spine’ has almost been repaired now, with hooker Beau Falloon and halves Kane Elgey and Aidan Sezer all in the side for the first time since round 13, a win against Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval.
Only fullback William Zillman, who was interchanging between centre and fullback with Josh Hoffman who will take his place tonight, is missing from the all-important ‘1-6-7-9’ positions that won four from five games up to when Greg Bird, also back in the side, began his long suspension after round eight.
Coach Neil Henry is hoping this will be the catalyst for an improved performance tonight but he, and the players, also know that it won’t mean for anything unless, across the board, the players focus on lifting their individual performances.
“I hope that it [return of key players] equates to a steady performance,” said coach Henry. “Certainly a backs-against-the-wall type effort is required against Brisbane on their turf but there has been a lot of honesty within the group the past few days as we addressed the performances against Manly and Newcastle.
"We need a focused performance; a performance where we control our possession, we roll through our sets, we've got some enthusiasm around our chase and our defence.
“We need to be competing all match. For two weeks I reckon we've competed for probably 30 minutes in two games and the rest of the time we haven't been in the hunt. That's been disappointing.
“We are looking to find the enthusiasm and intensity we’ve had for most of the season up to the past two games and I’m hoping that having a few of our established players back will trigger a lift in confidence and application that we are going to need against an in-form Broncos.
“The Broncos have developed some tremendous balance in their squad with a blend of experienced campaigners and some of the best young talent in the NRL. They’ll have current State of Origin players in Darius Boyd, Matt Gillett, Sam Thaiday and Corey Parker alongside rising stars in Ben Hunt, Anthony Milford, Jordan Kahu, Corey Oates and Dale Copley.
"They're a team playing with enormous confidence at the moment. It's one of those ones where we're struggling and they're flying at the moment so there's no better challenge than that."
Josh Hoffman got through the last training session with no problems after being in a moon-boot earlier in the week to rest an ankle injury but there may be a change with Daniel Mortimer being checked after suffering concussion against the Knights, with Chad Redman ready to come into the side.
In the previous encounter this year the Titans had the better of the opening 20 minutes but didn’t convert that to points and the Broncos then scored three tries in six minutes to go out to an 18-0 lead eight minutes before half-time. The Titans brought it back to 24-16 with 12 minutes remaining and sniffed an opportunity to win against a tiring Broncos, but couldn’t bring it home, losing 26-16.
HEAD TO HEAD
PLAYED 18; Broncos 13, Titans 5.
AT SUNCORP: Played 9; Broncos 8, Titans 1.
TRIES SCORED: Titans 55, Broncos 72.
TRIES CONCEDED: Titans 75, Broncos 46.
COMPLETION RATES: Titans 71%, Broncos 78%.
GOALKICKING: Titans 77%, Broncos 72%.
MATCH OFFICIALS: Referee: Adam Devcich; Assistant Referee: Chris Sutton; Touch Judges: Nick Beashel and Belinda Sleeman; Video Referees: Steve Chiddy and Luke Patten.
TELEVISED: Channel Nine – LIVE 7:30pm (QLD); Delayed 9:30pm (NSW)