The Gold Coast Aquis Titans don’t have to look too far back to see the warnings signs: a team under siege and with key players missing can provide a critical lesson in enthusiasm.
Nine days ago in Darwin that was how the Parramatta Eels were perceived and after being behind 8-0 after 12 minutes they out-enthused the Titans, respecting possession a lot more.
Manly have key players like NSW Origin rep Dylan Walker, who scored two tries against Penrith last weekend, Queensland regular and former Titans skipper Nate Myles, Kiwi international Steve Matai and halfback Daly Cherry Evans all missing.
However, a look own their team list still presents plenty of top-shelf talent like try-scoring freak Brett Stewart, skipper Jamie Lyon who doesn’t have poor performance in his vocabulary, the Trbojovich brothers who are among the NRL’s most promising youngsters, powerful winger Jorge Taufua and the aggressive forward Martin Taupau who has played some of his best football at Cbus Super Stadium.
And there is wide speculation that 20-year-old Liam Knight may debut off the bench tonight. The Central Coast product is an aggressive runner and tough tackler who many have predicted has a bright future ahead of him.
Neil Henry’s focus for the team this week has been to address the lapse in concentration and unusually high error rate against the Eels. In two-thirds of matches this year the Titans have completed their sets at an 80-per cent-plus efficiency but it dropped to 64 per cent (25 from 39) against the Eels.
“We need to react to our disappointing performance against Parramatta which was a bit lacklustre in hot conditions in Darwin,” coach Neil Henry said.
“Our poor discipline and ball control let us down – areas where we had been consistently good for most of this season- and we have to show tonight that that was uncharacteristic.
“Gauging on Manly’s high completion rate in their first half against Penrith last weekend when they shot to a commanding lead – 24-4 after 46 minutes – we have to be ready for them to do that again and match their enthusiasm from the opening whistle.
“If we don’t control our possession and be physical in defence, we’re in for a tough night.”
This match will be the first this season the Titans have played without NSW Origin back-rower Greg Bird and others in the pack will have to make up for the absence of his aggression and direct attack down the middle.
Agnatius Paasi (pictured) will wear his No. 13 jersey and it is a big opportunity for him to stamp some authority on the game from the opening whistle after coming off the bench in all but one game this season.
The game is also an invitation for Ryan James, the Titans’ most consistent and busiest forward this season who leads the team in hit-ups, tackles, metres gained and tries scored, to lift his teammates in Bird’s absence.
Titans (10th) v Sea Eagles (14th) @ nib Stadium, 4.30pm WA, 6.30pm Qld.
Referees: Henry Perenara and Alan Shortall
TV/Radio: Fox Sports, ABC and Triple M
HEAD TO HEAD
Played 14: Sea Eagles 9 wins, Gold Coast 5.
At Cbus Super Stadium: Played 8 - Sea Eagles 5, Titans 3
Completions: Titans 78%, Sea Eagles 76%
Tries scored: Titans 45, Sea Eagles 38
Tries conceded: Titans 51, Sea Eagles 55
Goalkicking: Titans 84%, Sea Eagles 83%
Past 6 results:
2015 – Sea Eagles 38-6 at Cbus Super Stadium
2014 – Sea Eagles 15-12 at Cbus Super Stadium
2013 – Sea Eagles 38-20 at Brookvale Oval, Titans 16-14 at Skilled Stadium
2012 – Sea Eagles 24-16 at Skilled Park, Titans 26-14 at Brookvale Oval
AQUIS GOLD COAST TITANS
1 – William Zillman (capt)
2 – Anthony Don
3 – Josh Hoffman
4 – Nathan Davis
5 - Nene Macdonald
6 – Tyrone Roberts
7 – Ash Taylor
8 – Luke Douglas
9 – Nathan Friend (capt)
10 – Ryan James
11 – Zeb Taia
12 – Chris McQueen
13 – Agnatius Paasi
14 – Eddy Pettybourne
15 – Leivaha Pulu
16 – Ryan Simpkins
17 – Nathan Peats
MANLY WARRINGAH SEA EAGLES
1 Brett Stewart
2 Jorge Taufua
3 Tom Trbojevic
4 Brayden Wiliame
5 Matt Wright
6 Jamie Lyon (C)
7 Api Koroisau
8 Darcy Lussick
9 Matt Parcell
10 Martin Taupau
11 Lewis Brown
12 Jamie Buhrer
13 Jake Trbojevic
14 Blake Leary
15 Josh Starling
16 Addin Fonua-Blake
17 Siosaia Vave
18 Liam Knight