St George Illawarra have been hit by the withdrawals because of injury to NSW Blues rep Josh Dugan and former Kiwi Test skipper Benji Marshall who was to celebrate his 250th NRL appearance in the clash with the Aquis Titans at a cold WIN Jubilee Oval at Kogarah.
Marshall also missed the round seven clash which was won by the Dragons 19-14. His deputy that day, former Raider Josh McCrone, was one of their best and he will again deputise for the veteran Marshall tonight.
Off-season signing from Canterbury, Tim Lafai, is expected to be recalled to the Dragons outfit against a Gold Coast side that will have Konrad Hurrell in the centres for the second time since he joined from the Warriors in May.
Tonight’s match is crucial for both teams for two reasons. Firstly, eighth spot – which the Dragons currently hold two competition points ahead of the Titans – is available to the winner plus with State of Origin now passed we now enter the “money end” of the season, the final eight rounds.
The Titans have a clean bill of health going into the match and welcome Hurrell back, David Mead who has trained strongly at fullback and skipper Nathan Friend who has recovered from a knee injury.
The Titans see this as a match that can give them the impetus to head into our ‘Festival of Footy’ which sees three successive matches against Parramatta (next Saturday 5.30pm), Auckland (Sunday 2pm) and Cronulla (Monday night). Three or four wins from the next month would pitch-fork the side into the final four rounds with some confidence, with the task of facing Newcastle away, Penrith at home, Wests Tigers away and finally the Cowboys in Townsville.
And a key, not just tonight but for the crucial last third of the season, will be Greg Bird whomissed the round seven clash between the two teams.
His form was tremendous pre-Origin but, with him carrying niggling injuries and confronted with a testing travel schedule that included two Origin camps, a trip to Perth and directly to Darwin, then Auckland last weekend, it has tapered.
The 32-year-old hard man is keen to put the disappointment of missing Origin III selection and is feeling the freshest he has been for several weeks.
“We need him fresh and firing, he’s the first one to admit that around Origin there are a lot of distractions and a lot of footy on and he hasn’t been up to his standards in a couple of games and he’ll be looking to get out there are rip in.
“He is vital to us, he’s an important part of what we do in the middle of the field and offers a bit of variety around the edges in attack as well.
“If we’re a chance of playing top-line footy in September we have to step up, starting tonight.”
To watch MATCH HIGHLIGHTS from the round seven clash - CLICK HERE
For Nathan Friend's run down - CLICK HERE
Titans (9th) v Dragons (8th) @ Win Jubilee 7.50pm
Referees: Matt Cecchin and Matt Noyen
TV/Radio: Channel 9, Fox Sports, 2BC, ABC, Triple M
HEAD TO HEAD
Played 18: Played 16 – Dragons 11, Titans 5
At WIN Jubilee Oval: Played 3 - Titans 2, Dragons 1
Completions: Titans 79%, Dragons 76%
Tries scored: Titans 57, Dragons 37
Tries conceded: Titans 62, Dragons 58
Goalkicking: Titans 83%, Dragons 63%
Past 6 results:
2016 – Dragons 19-14 at Cbus Super Stadium
2015 – Titans 28-26 at Cbus Super Stadium
2014 – Dragons 34-6 at WIN Jubilee Oval, Dragons 19-18 at Cbus Super Stadium
2013 – Titans 15-14 at Skilled Stadium
AQUIS GOLD COAST TITANS
1 – David Mead
2 – Anthony Don
3 – Josh Hoffman
4 – Konrad Hurrell
5 - Nene Macdonald
6 – Tyrone Roberts
7 – Ash Taylor
8 – Luke Douglas
9 – Nathan Peats
10 – Ryan James
11 – Zeb Taia
12 – Chris McQueen
13 – Greg Bird
14 – Eddy Pettybourne
15 – Leivaha Pulu
16 – Agnatius Paasi
17 – Nathan Friend (capt)
2. Kalifa Faifai Loa
3. Euan Aitken
4. Kurt Mann
5. Jason Nightingale
6. Gareth Widdop (c)
8. Russell Packer
9. Mitch Rein
10. Tyson Frizell
11. Jacob Host
12. Joel Thompson
13. Jack de Belin
14. Tariq Sims
15. Leeson Ah Mau
16. Dunamis Lui
17. Jake Marketo
19. Tyrone McCarthy