Gold Coast coach Justin Holbrook has given the Titans a licence to skill in 2020 as he looks to bring out the best attacking talents of some of the NRL’s most talented yet maligned players.
The Titans were ranked 15th in the NRL for points scored last season but Holbrook has spent the entire summer conducting “mini-skills” sessions with players to ensure they have the confidence and ability to play to their strengths.
With a team boasting mercurial talents like Ashley Taylor, Tyrone Peachey and Bryce Cartwright, Holbrook knows the best way to achieve scoring success is to allow those dangerous players to enjoy a freedom few coaches accept in the days of structured rugby league.
Those three Titans in particular have a proven ability to be gamebreakers on their day but have come under fierce criticism in recent years for not delivering such performances on a consistent basis.
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Holbrook will demand his team stick to their defensive structures, but when they have the ball in hand he is willing to take the good with the bad in order to get the best result for his team.
“I think you’ve got to have a structure to know what to do but I want them to have the freedom to play,” Holbrook said.
“I think we’ve got such a skilful side here and we showed some of that in the Nines and we showed it against Brisbane and I don’t want to cap the guys from playing.
“I think that is where you’ve got the variables that can happen when you’ve got the ball.
“I think defensively you can’t (move away from structure), you’ve got to know what you’re doing there and work really hard in that area, but in terms of attack we’ve got some real strike there and we want them to play.”
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Holbrook expected his team to embrace their underdog status in 2020, even if there is a strong belief in the squad that their four-win season last year was not a true reflection of their ability.
“Obviously where we finished last year we will be underdogs so it doesn’t worry me,” he said.
“I don’t care if we’re favourites or not favourites, it’s about playing well on the day. That’s all we worry about.
“I think we’re equal with everyone in the competition, I think all 16 teams have shown that.
“We’ve seen some lopsided seasons. Parramatta a couple of years ago struggled then they jump out of the box last year."
The Titans will line up as named when they face Canberra on Friday night, with prop Moeaki Fotuaika a chance to return next week while fullback AJ Brimson could miss several more weeks with a stress fracture in his back.
“I’m probably more frustrated than AJ. We can’t help it. It’s just one of those things... you can’t keep pushing him because it makes it worse,” Holbrook said.
“We just have to keep trying to let it settle as quick as it can then get him out there when we can.
“Some days it’s really good and other days it’s not. It’s hard to play a game of rugby league if you’ve got a sore back so it’s not ideal that’s for sure."