Livewire youngster AJ Brimson is set to become the Titans’ supersub with coach Garth Brennan to entrust veteran Michael Gordon with the No.1 jersey when the side runs out for round one against Canberra next month.
Brennan will unveil his first side for the 2019 season on Wednesday with a host of youngsters and players on the periphery of the starting 13 to be given a chance to impress against the Cowboys on Saturday.
The club’s Indigenous and Maori All Stars representatives are not expected to play while the likes of Brimson, captain Ryan James and halves Ash Taylor and Ryley Jacks will also be missing as they continue to rehab injuries.
In a season where the Titans finished 14th, the emergence of Brimson’s attacking brilliance in 15 games last year was one of the highlights, the last four games at fullback yielding four tries as he showcased his scintillating attacking spark.
It led many to believe that he was a certainty to start the year in the same position but as the 20-year-old continues to recover from shoulder surgery, Brennan has given his best indication yet that it will be Gordon who gets first crack at the back.
In what shapes as the 35-year-old’s final season in the NRL having made his debut for the Panthers in 2006 – when Brimson was just seven – Brennan says Gordon’s experience is invaluable to what is a relatively young group.
“He probably will be at this point,” Brennan told NRL.com when asked if Gordon was the front-runner to be the side’s fullback against Canberra on March 17.
“He’s well respected and it’s like having another coach out there.
“He’s at the back-end of his career but he’s a very smart footballer. He knows his stuff and he’s a blessing for me because it’s like having a coach out on the field.”
Not only will Gordon perform on-field coaching duties in terms of organising the team’s defence in 2019, he will play a critical role in the development of his long-term successor.
“People say that AJ’s best position is fullback – and going forward I think it probably will be – but there’s a lot more to being a fullback these days,” explained Brennan.
“Organising the defensive line and defensive structures is an art form and it’s not easy.
“AJ can handle the attack side of things at fullback on his ear, we’ve seen that last year. I’ve got no concerns about that whatsoever. But organising the defence and directing middles around and putting them in the right place, that takes a little bit of time to understand and to learn.
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“Having Michael around this year to have that transition for AJ to learn that at training – how Michael organises the defensive line and where he puts people – it’s like having another coach out there for 12 months in educating AJ.”
The other area that Brennan hopes to lean on Gordon throughout 2019 is to teach the younger players winning habits.
Gordon played finals football with the Panthers, Sharks and Roosters before returning home to the Gold Coast and has seen first-hand what it takes to be successful in the NRL.
“He’s a professional, ‘Flash’. He’s been in some really good systems, he’s been in winning systems at clubs like the Panthers and the Roosters,” said Brennan.
“Winning is a habit. You get used to winning and you know what it takes to win and some of our young kids here at the Titans need to learn that a little bit because they haven’t tasted a lot of success.
“It's a big help bringing in guys like Michael Gordon and Shannon Boyd who has played World Cup for Australia or Tyrone Peachey who has been in an Origin-winning series.”