Gold Training under-20s coach Ben Woolf may have to do a backline reshuffle to counter for the withdrawal of in-form fullback AJ Brimson from today’s final game against second-placed North Queensland Cowboys at 1300SMILES Stadium.
Brayden McGrady has been brought into the squad but Woolf will not make a decision on his starting 13 until shortly before kick-off, with several options to consider.
The Titans go into the game after coming within two points of beating runaway minor premiers Penrith last Saturday and they travel to Townsville with the knowledge that they upset the Cowboys, who were then ladder leaders, in the final round last season by 30-20.
“With Morgan Boyle having his second game for a long while and John Olive and Brian Kelly both in the side for the first time, we’ve got a pretty capable side,” said Woolf.
“It’s unfortunate we’ve lost AJ through an ankle injury but the boys played well against the Panthers who are the stand-out team in the competition so we head up north knowing we’re in the match and have a bit of quality in the side.”
Our under-20s have never been able to get their strongest squad on the field all season due to injuries to players who trained with the NRL squad in the off-season particularly Shane Wright, Jed Cartwright, Greg Leleisiuao and Boyle, but it has opened up opportunities for some young players who have shown their talent and will form the basis of next year’s team.
An unsung hero has been utility forward Max King who has been the team’s most consistent and hardest-working player.
He hasn’t missed a match and has averaged 126m of yardage, 12 hit-ups and 31 tackles a match.
Halfback Josh Ralph has also been impressive, leading the team’s try-scoring with 13, despite only having played 11 games after being promoted from the Mal Meninga Cup mid-season.
Today’s game kicks off at 3.15pm.
The team to play the Cowboys is:
2- David Pritchard
3- Brian Kelly
4- John Olive
5- Phillip Sami
6- Josh Rogers
7- Josh Ralph
8- Kurt Bernard
9- Jordan Scott
10- Nathan Watts
11- Simione Fatafehi
12- Sam Swift
13- Max King
14 – Ethan Roberts
15 – Apiata Noema
16 – Morgan Boyle
17 – Shaun Hinton
18 – Brayden McGrady