Titans NRLW coach Jamie Feeney has quite a unique opportunity come Sunday's Round 3 blockbuster against the Parramatta Eels.
On one hand, he'll have the most experienced player of the competition at his disposable - Steph Hancock, who celebrated her 40th birthday this week. He'll also unleash the youngest player of the NRLW with Hailee-Jay Maunsell set to debut on the wing at the ripe old age of 18.
Hancock - daughter of legendary Origin forward Rohan - may be a completely different player to the young Victorian who made the move to the Gold Coast to chase her rugby league dream, but the talented teen has been able to learn plenty from the footy pioneer.
"I think they’re completely different positions, but it’s more what she sees in preparation that she learns from. How Steph goes about looking after her body and how she responds to throwing everything at it but coming off second best, how she responds to what she thinks wasn’t a great game for Round 1 but steps up for Round 2," Feeney said.
"It’s the way she responds and leading from her actions than just her words that will mean the most.
"We’re so very fortunate to have her in our game and our team playing quality footy at the age of 40.
"Hails, being so young, she soaks everything in. She comes from Melbourne and from a system where the pathway isn’t quite developed there yet, so she made the move up here to play footy.
"Her attitude and how she pushed herself in the academy program that she graduated in January was why she got the opportunity to come into the NRLW side.
"She’s quick and she’ll never give up. She’s bloody tough.
"It’s a great achievement for her and she’ll do a great job for us on the weekend."
Getting their first NRLW win at the weekend in only their second appearance as a new side in the competition, the experienced women's rugby league coach was proud of the achievement, but doesn't want to get too complacent with still plenty of footy to be played.
"It was good to get the monkey off the back even though it was only our second game, but I guess the pleasing thing is we found our style of footy for 80 percent of the game over the weekend," Feeney said.
"If we put that on the park every week, then we’ll put ourself in the best possible position to win every game.
"Hopefully we can do that on the weekend.
"I was probably most impressed with our intent and energy levels – not just in defence, but a lot of times in attack, especially with our fight to win the play-the-balls.
"A lot of things that just weren’t there the week before for whatever reason, but that game is over now and we’ve moved forward and I hope to keep developing every week."
Match: Eels v Titans
Round 3 -
Venue: CommBank Stadium, Sydney
Trekking down to CommBank Stadium for the clash against fellow new kids on the block, Parramatta, Feeney believes the catalyst to the contest will be control.
"We’ve both got really good forward packs, so we need to control the ball, which for us, will control our attack," Feeney said.
"We need to get that energy into defence again so we can help control their attack.
"If we can maintain attack and defensive control, the result is in our hands and hopefully we can do what we did last weekend, this weekend to get the points.
"Again, it’s a process and if we follow it, it will get the desired outcome."
The side will have to do it without powerhouse prop Shannon Mato, who has been ruled out of the 2021 season with an MCL tear, but despite the All Stars wrecking ball forced to watch from the sidelines, the Titans coach is confident debutant Laikha Clarke will be a ready-made replacement to fill the void.
"Laiks is full of energy. She’s a ball of energy around training. She’s energetic, she’s funny and can sometimes be a class-clown sometimes. She’s a little bit unique, but she’ll be great," Feeney said.
"She’s worked really hard. She came in really late into our preparations, but she’ll do a great job.
"We’ve got full faith she’ll execute the plan we’ve got for her and the rest of the girls will do it as well."
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.