After winning back-to-back matches for the first time in 16 months, Gold Coast coach Justin Holbrook has set his side the goal of finishing the season as the best team in Queensland by beating Brisbane next weekend.
The Titans overcame the loss of strike centre Brian Kelly and prop Jaimin Jolliffe in the opening 10 minutes to defeat Canterbury 18-14 at ANZ Stadium in a performance Holbrook said showed how much his team has improved this season.
With star recruits David Fifita, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and Herman Ese’ese joining the club, excitement is building on the Gold Coast for 2021, but Holbrook wants to lay the platform for next year by finishing this season well.
“We want to get this year right and if we do that it helps for next year and I think we are doing that,” Holbrook said.
“I am really happy that we went back-to-back. It means a lot to myself and the players.
“I thought we played really good in the first half and we were hanging on in the second half but that is a good sign too. I thought it showed the character of the boys.
“We couldn’t have done that earlier in the year. If we lost two players, I would have been sitting here saying we lost a few guys through injury and we weren’t good enough.”
The win moves the Titans six points clear of the Broncos and North Queensland, with the Cowboys meeting St George Illawarra on Sunday.
After defeating Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium earlier in the season, Gold Coast have the opportunity to beat their big brother twice in the same year and Holbrook said they wanted to claim bragging rights as the best team in Queensland.
“There is no game bigger than the derby and I know the Broncos will be looking forward to it too,” he said.
“It’s the best game of the year for us - to be playing Brisbane.
“We have still got a few games to go to get there and I know that as Queensland teams we haven’t performed well this year but if we are good enough to finish on top that is something I will be happy and proud of at the end of the year.”
Despite the narrow defeat of Canterbury, Holbrook was also proud of his players for the way they overcome the loss of Kelly and Jolliffe with ankle injuries.
Rookie second-rower Beau Fermor shifted to left centre, while interchange prop Moeaki Fotuaika played 70 minutes in his first match back from suspension and star forward Jai Arrow played 69 minutes in his return from a shoulder injury.
“To go down to two subs for 70 minutes and players playing out of position, when I think of all that I am really happy that we won the game,” Holbrook said.
“I thought I had the luxury of bringing big Moe off the bench to play less minutes and he came on and played 70 straight so he will be asking to start again next week.
“With Jai Arrow, I was just going to play him at the back end of the game and then he gets rolled out early, and he doesn’t get to come off.
“I am really proud of how we had to play bigger minutes and were out of sorts but hung in there to win the game.”