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A capacity crowd is expected to flock to Robina for the christening of the brand new Skilled Park when the Gold Coast Titans take on the North Queensland Cowboys in the first round of rugby league’s centenary 2008 season.

The new-look Titans are looking to build on their highly impressive debut season last year, and will be out to make a statement at their new home ground, which they are looking to turn into a fortress – starting with the Queensland derby against the Cowboys.

As if there was not already a big enough sense of occasion with the opening of the season and the new stadium, Titans coach John Cartwright has also elected to give rookie winger Jordan Atkins his NRL debut, naming him in jersey No.5.

Born in Stanthorpe, Atkins has come through the system with the Burleigh Bears and toured the UK with the Australian Universities team in 2004.

Cartwright said the 25-year-old Atkins is a renowned try-scorer who won’t be overawed by the occasion, and deserves his chance.

On the other wing, former Wests Tigers flyer Ben Jeffery will make his first appearance for the Titans, as will prop Aaron Cannings, who plays his first game in Gold Coast colours from the bench after his off-season shift from Parramatta.

The Gold Coast’s other big off-season acquisition – Queensland State of Origin star Ash Harrison – will play his first game for the Titans at lock after joining Gold Coast from the Sydney Roosters.

Co-Captain Scott Prince and Mat Rogers reunite once again in the halves to keep their successful combination going, with Luke O’Dwyer and Brett Delaney in the centres, and the ever-reliable Preston Campbell at fullback.

Co-captain Luke Bailey leads a strong pack of forwards, headed by the backrow combination of Anthony Laffranchi and Mark Minichiello.

The Cowboys team, coached by Graham Murray, is dripping with stars – most notably returning skipper Johnathan Thurston, who is making a late return to the side in the unfamiliar No.25 jersey.

Thurston’s return has led to a reshuffle in the Cowboys team, with Travis Burns moving from halfback to five-eighth, Justin Smith moving to the second row in jersey No.6, and Jacob Lillyman being squeezed onto the interchange bench alongside Matt Scott

ROUND 1, 2008

GOLD COAST TITANS

VS NORTH QLD COWBOYS

FRIDAY 14 MARCH, 2008

ROBINA STADIUM

 

TITANS

1.           Preston Campbell

2.           Ben Jeffery

3.           Luke O’Dwyer

4.           Brett Delaney

5.           Jordan Atkins

6.           Mat Rogers

7.           Scott Prince (c)

8.           Luke Bailey (c)

9.           Nathan Friend

10.         Michael Hodgson

11.         Anthony Laffranchi

12.         Mark Minichiello

13.         Ash Harrison

INTERCHANGE

14.         Aaron Cannings

15.         Daniel Conn

16.         Josh Graham

17.         Clint Amos

COACH: John Cartwright

 

COWBOYS

1.           Matt Bowen

2.           Ty Williams

3.           Ashley Graham

4.           Ben Harris

5.           Mark Henry

7.           Travis Burns

25.         Johnathan Thurston (c)

 8.          Ray Cashmere

9.           Aaron Payne

10.         Carl Webb

11.         Steve Southern

6.           Justin Smith

13.         Luke O'Donnell

INTERCHANGE

12.         Jacob Lillyman

14.         David Faiumu

17.         Matthew Scott

18.         Shane Tronc