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With new coach Des Hasler at the helm, a friendly rivalry for the fullback position and a formidable forward pack set to be the envy of many opposition teams, Gold Coast Titans fans will be hoping for a far better finish in 2024.

Much speculation revolves around the first-choice spine and how Hasler will juggle his forward pack, with the arrival of Keenan Palasia from the Broncos, fresh from a maiden grand final appearance, adding another piece to the puzzle.

With experienced campaigners like Kieran Foran back on deck, as well as Origin and international representative stars including captain Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Moe Fotuaika and David Fifita, the Titans will be looking to find a new steely resolve to help produce overall improvements on the field next season. examines the key talking points surrounding the Titans ahead of 2024. 

Date with Des-tiny

In news that came as shock at the time, the Titans announced the abrupt departure of Justin Holbrook and the appointment of Des Hasler as head coach for the 2024 season in June, with the club stating the change was “necessary to deliver on our promise which is to win premierships”. Although he is a two-time premiership-winning coach – claiming titles with Manly in 2008 and 2011 – at first impression, the pairing of the ‘old school’ Hasler and the fresh-faced and mostly young Titans squad seemed an odd mix, however, after too many seasons of missing out on the finals, his hard edge might be just the change the still developing squad need. Hasler has reunited with Kieran Foran, who expects his former coach to bring a “steeliness” around the team’s defence, with that being a key area in need of improvement. While Hasler was happily making jokes during his first official press conference with the club, implying the sea change has softened his outlook, the Titans will be hoping he can make Cbus Super Stadium a fortress against opposition teams.

Rewriting the second half of the story

There is no getting around the fact that second half fadeouts in recent seasons have cost the Titans dearly. As it stands, opposition teams know they are in with a shot of turning things around once they run out of the sheds for the second half. Overall in 2023, the Titans let a strong halftime advantage slip on seven occasions, including giving up a 26-6 lead as the Dolphins produced a record-equalling comeback to score a 28-26 win in Round 8. In the scheme of things, if the Titans had been able to hold out their opposition, they would have finished the season with 16 wins –  which would have placed them firmly in the top eight. The manner of their losses was of the most concern as they just seemed unable to halt opposition momentum once the needle started to turn against them. Converting their strong starts into wins will be one of the first things on the list to address for Hasler.

'Des will pick the best team to win’: Brimson

How will Hasler re-align the team’s spine?

Hasler has already spoken of the selection headache to come when he has been asked about his best options for the spine. While choosing to see it as a positive and praising the versatility of his squad overall, there is no doubt Hasler has some thinking to do before Round 1, with plenty of players looking to make their mark in their preferred positions, starting with AJ Brimson and Jayden Campbell, who are both gunning for fullback. While Brimson can also play centre, both he and Campbell have performed at five-eighth previously, a position currently occupied by veteran Kieran Foran. Having played 21 games at halfback last season before injury cut his season short, now that he has recovered, Tanah Boyd is set to step straight back into the role, despite some competition from youngster Tom Weaver who made his NRL debut at the back-end of the season. While there has been some speculation that the more experienced Foran could take up the responsibility at halfback, allowing either Campbell or Brimson to come in at six, with Boyd – or Chris Randall, who won the club’s coaches award and can also play dummy half and in the front line – being used in a utility role off the bench to back up Sam Verrills at hooker, that’s a lot of movement of chess pieces, when Hasler is more likely to opt for a simpler solution. Whichever path he decides to take, Hasler has plenty of options up his sleeve.

'Proud of my season': Fotuaika reflects on incredible 2023

Who misses out from a fit and firing forward pack?

As well as having plenty of options in the spine, how Hasler juggles his forward pack will be of interest, especially given his ample options in the second row. While Verrills and Randall are set to primarily jostle for the hooking role with Erin Clark firmly stating his preference to play at lock, the arrival of new signing Keenan Palasia adds another quality option to the mix with his ability to play front row, second row and lock. With David Fifita - who is aiming to recover from a pectoral muscle injury before the 2024 season - in arguably his career-best form this past year, a fit Beau Fermor looking to fire, emerging talent Jacob Alick back from a winning Kumuls campaign as well as experienced campaigners Joe Stimson and Isaac Liu and the developing Klese Haas all in the mix, who will slot in where to complement the work of impressive captain Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and reigning club player of the year Moe Fotuaika is up in the air. Back from an injury-riddled 2023 season, Jaimin Jolliffe is another middle forward looking to make his mark, as is Iszac Fa’asuamaleaui, all adding to Des’s forward dilemma.

NRL try time: Alofiana Khan-Pereira

Can Lofi reach the same lofty heights next season?

The Titans unearthed a star last season in winger Alofiana Khan-Pereira. Claiming the club’s try scoring record with 20 tries in 23 appearances – just behind competition leader Jamayne Isaako with 24 – Khan-Pereira finished the year on a high with a call-up to Mal Meninga’s Prime Minister’s XIII team that took on their Papua New Guinea counterparts. How Khan-Pereira, who was winger of the year and leading try scorer in Queensland’s Cup competition in 2022, backs up from a taxing first season of fulltime NRL will be key factor to his side’s success. If he can avoid the pitfalls of the so-called second year syndrome, the Titans will have a strike weapon out wide. Coupled with an in-form Phil Sami who was pushing for an Origin recall, the club also have plenty of depth literally waiting in the wings in Jojo Fifita, Tony Francis who is yet to make his debut and the experienced Ken Maumalo. Aaron Schoupp, who is normally a centre, played one game on the wing in 2023 against the Bulldogs in the final round, while the Titans also recently announced the signing of outside back Harley Smith-Shields from the Raiders.

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.