Gold Coast coach Garth Brennan has challenged his Titans to put impressive pre-season performances into on-field practice in their trial match against North Queensland at Sunshine Coast Stadium on Saturday night.
Brennan has named a balanced mix of youth and experience to take on the Cowboys, with Tyrone Roberts to captain the Gold Coast from halfback after his Preston Campbell Medal-winning performance for the Indigenous All Stars against the Maori Kiwis last weekend.
Similarly, the Cowboys have mixed rookies alongside some of their big-name stars, most notably international juggernauts Matt Scott, Jason Taumalolo and Jordan McLean in a massive forward pack.
While the final result on the scoreboard will matter little to Brennan, he is however expecting to see the positive results of a torrid pre-season at Parkwood from the Titans’ first hit-out for 2019.
“(This game) is about going out and putting into practice some of the stuff we have been working on since November,” Brennan said.
“The boys have trained really well. They have put in a lot of hard work. They have trained as hard as I have ever seen an NRL team train.
“But at the end of the day, it comes down to playing some football.
“They have got themselves in really good shape, which will give them some confidence. That is the big key.
“If players take shortcuts, they know deep down that they haven’t done the work, so they tend to look for shortcuts the whole year.
“But I have to say that this year, no player has taken any shortcuts, they have worked really hard, so hopefully that will give them some confidence going in the trials and into the season in a few weeks’ time.
“The result (against the Cowboys), well there is not two points on offer, so the result is not as important as it is in an NRL game (but) I want to see the boys put together some of the things that we have been working on in the pre-season – particularly in attack.”
Brennan said he is looking forward to seeing young forwards Max King, Morgan Boyle and Moeaki Fotuaika in action against a Cowboys pack that is not far away from North Queensland’s NRL starting six.
“Obviously there are a few guys coming back from injury (that I am looking forward to seeing),” Brennan said. “Max King and Morgan Boyle are both coming back from shoulder reconstructions to finish the year last year, so seeing them get back out there and playing some footy will be exciting.
“Probably the big one is young Moe Fotuaika. He is Tongan, and I know that he looks up to Jason Taumalolo. He is going to be nervous because he looks up to Jason. I am looking forward to seeing him get out there.
“The young guys are excited about coming up against the likes of Matt Scott, who has been the best front-rower in the game for however long, and Taumalolo, who is probably the most damaging player in the game at the moment.
“It is exciting for our guys to come up against those players to test themselves. They have worked really hard in the pre-season, so to go out and test themselves against players of that quality, they are excited about it.”
Brennan said he was hopeful southeast Queensland’s wild weather would hold off to keep the playing surface dry and provide an entertaining game of football at Sunshine Coast Stadium.
“The Cowboys are probably used to playing and training in the wet,” Brennan joked. “But look, I think it is important that the game goes ahead.
“Hopefully it holds off and stays dry, and the fans get out there to support the game. I think it has sold well from what I am told, and I think it is important that we bring games out to these types of areas with an NRL-quality football match.”
For Titans members and fans unable to make the journey north for the game, the NRL’s cameras will be at the venue, with a live stream of the match available for viewing at titans.com.au from 5pm (Note: Viewers will need an NRL account to view the stream).
COWBOYS v TITANS
5pm Saturday 23 February, Sunshine Coast Stadium
TITANS: 1. Jesse Arthars, 2. Anthony Don, 3. Brenko Lee, 4. Brian Kelly, 5. Phillip Sami, 6. Dylan Phythian, 7. Tyrone Roberts (c), 8. Jack Stockwell, 9. Mitch Rein, 10. Moeaki Fotuaika, 11. Bryce Cartwright, 12. Will Matthews, 13. Max King. Interchange: 14. Christian Hazard, 15. Morgan Boyle, 16. Jai Whitbread, 17. Leilani Latu, 18. John Palavi, 19. Darius Farmer, 20. Jaxson Paulo, 21. Kai O’Donnell, 22. Ben Thomas, 23. Ioana Seiuli, 24. Kea Pere, 25. Treymain Spry, 26. Jacob Hind
COWBOYS: 1. Carlin Anderson, 2. Gideon Gela-Mosby, 3. Enari Tuala, 4. Javid Bowen, 5. Murray Taulagi, 6. Te Maire Martin, 7. Jake Clifford, 8. Matt Scott, 9. Jake Granville, 10. Jordan McLean, 11. Ethan Lowe, 12. Mitch Dunn, 13. Jason Taumalolo. Interchange: 14. Kurt Wiltshire, 15. Corey Jensen, 16. Shane Wright, 17. Scott Bolton, 18. Francis Molo, 19. Tom Gilbert, 20. Reuben Cotter, 21. Tom Opacic, 22. Peter Hola, 23. Dan Russell