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'Our 24 players I just can’t fit into 17': Squad depth a healthy challenge for Holbrook

It's no secret the Titans are blessed with a fathomless depth of talent in the playing roster this season and the task of selecting a final 17 to travel to Parramatta has been nothing short of tough for coach Justin Holbrook.

The question the Gold Coast mentor was forced to ponder over the weekend was not who to pick in the side, but rather... who to leave out.

It's a very healthy predicament to be in, and whilst Holbrook understands it was challenging to leave out quality stars such as Jarrod Wallace and Herman Ese'ese for Sunday's season opener against the Eels, he knows it's needed if success is to come in September. 

"Our 24 players I just can’t fit into 17, but I can’t make apologies. We know we’re going to need that depth this year. I think every club does," Holbrook said.

"Those top five or six sides, they don’t miss a beat and they’re the sides we need to catch, so we’re going to need everyone during the year.

"Parramatta said they have 12 players playing New South Wales Cup that have played NRL, so those types of sides have the depth and the Roosters showed it last year.

"We’ve had to leave some great players out... Jarrod Wallace, Herman has had his best pre-season. Tanah Boyd is unlucky, Esan Marsters is flying and Greg Marzhew has also been great."

"We’ve made tough calls this week and that’s got to happen."

The third-season Titans coach said the decision to leave Wallace - a 177-game, Origin representative - out of the side was probably the most difficult of all to make. 

"It was a tough one. I’m looking at the Parramatta game and I see Jimmy Jolliffe and himself like-for-like, and I always wanted to start Isaac Liu with Tino (Fa'asuamaleaui) and Moey (Fotuaika)," Holbrook said.

"The bench spots… I wanted that explosive guy either side of half-time which is what Sam Lisone just beat Herman for. I’ve got to have Will Smith as the utility and then Kevin Proctor can play middle and edge which is the only reason J-Wal missed out.

"I originally had him in and then thought about KP’s coverage at back-row and middle and things like that, so it was a tough, tough decision and he just missed out.

"I give him credit because he took [missing out] well. He’s completely disappointed and I expected him to be.

"He’s one of our senior players and he’s really trained hard after the Christmas break because he wanted to be in the 17 as they all do.

"But to his credit, he trained as good as he could today and he’s getting on with it.

"It's hard for a player who’s done what he’s done in the game to take that news and he’s taken it as well as he could ask.

"He’s going to play plenty of games for us this year that’s for sure, but just unlikely for Round 1."

The same problem goes for opponents Parramatta - in which Holbrook believes is one of the top sides in the competition - who are expected to also leave out a first-class Origin prop for the Sunday afternoon blockbuster.

"Whether Nathan Brown comes into the side late or not, they’ve named him to play Reserve Grade and he’s one of their best players," Holbrook said.

The Titans will reduce their current 24-man squad to 19 players on Saturday afternoon before the final 17 to play will be confirmed at 2.05pm AEST on Sunday.

Be there at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday, March 19 for the Gold Coast Titans' first home game of the year. A double header with the NRL and NRLW Titans in action. $20 from every ticket goes directly to the club's flood recovery initiative.

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Acknowledgement of Country

Gold Coast Titans proudly acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we are situated, the Kombumerri families of the Yugambeh Language Region. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging, and recognise their continuing connections to the lands, waters and their extended communities throughout South East Queensland.