The time has come for Garth Brennan to make the tough calls.
Just a month ago the Titans were building nicely, they’d just had convincing wins over Brisbane and Manly, and the team was showing the attitude of the “little team that could” from 2016. Four weeks, and four losses later, the Titans season is on life support.
For the Gold Coast to be in contention for the top eight this season they will have to win 11 of their 15 remaining games, but the way the team played on Saturday afternoon against Canberra their next win looks weeks away.
While they took positive steps forward in a narrow loss to Cronulla last week, the team took three steps back in their 32-18 loss to the Raiders – which is a flattering scoreline for the Coast. It’s hard to remember a worse start to a game. In the first set with the ball the Titans forwards get dominated, on the last tackle Ash Taylor kicks out on the full, next set Canberra score. The Titans never recovered.
Injuries or excuses?
Admittedly, the team lost Jai Arrow and Jarrod Wallace, but the game was lost long before they left the field. Perhaps the loss could also be blamed on the injuries to Nathan Peats and Dale Copley, but these would just be excuses. Penrith are a team decimated by injuries, and yet they continue to put in performances their fans can be proud of, the Titans fans want the same.
The truth is, the Titans four-match losing streak is down to Garth Brennan’s inability to make the tough calls.
Two weeks ago Brennan dropped Kane Elgey, and fair play to him, he’s right to drop players if he believes they aren’t performing, but he dropped the wrong player. Although a fan favourite, it’s hard to remember a time Konrad Hurrell was playing with such little confidence. He tops the NRL for errors and personally killed the Titans chances of a comeback against the Raiders when he dropped the ball when on attack, and the next set threw the ball over the sideline. If ever a player need to be dropped to reserves to rebuild his confidence, its Konrad Hurrell right now.
To the all-important halves pairing, I struggle to envision a worse first-choice half pairing than Ash Taylor and Bryce Cartwright. Taylor looks out of his depth trying to lead the team, he has kicked out on the full in just about every game this season, and his once brilliant ability to create tries has dwindled away. Taylor registered four try-assists when the Titans played the Raiders in round one, he’s had just four more in the seven games since. Taylor’s running game is non-existent, and his decision making in attack is poor, to say the least, epitomised when the Titans ran a promising backline play, only for Taylor to throw the ball into an unexpecting Kevin Proctor. Proctor dropped the ball and Taylor lay on the floor with a smile of frustration on his face. The fans weren't laughing.
Egg on the face of Brennan
Dropping Kane Elgey was a big call, and Bryce Cartwright has done nothing but leave coach Brennan with an egg on his face. Cartwright has said publicly he does not want to play in the halves, so why Brennan chose to persist with him there is baffling. Cartwright looks uninterested and uninvested. The team deserves better, the Gold Coast deserves better. Dropping Elgey has done nothing but disrupt the teams dynamic further, in hindsight it was a mistake.
There is hope though. Queensland under 20s halfback Alexander Brimson is contracted to the Titans, and currently starring in the Queensland Cup. It’s a danger to blood the kid at just 20 years old, but he’s the last card the Titans have left to play.
When he arrived at the Gold Coast, Brennan spoke honestly stating the Titans would not win every game in 2018, but he promised that when the team comes off the field the fans would feel that they gave it everything they had. This is not feeling within the Titans fan base.
The question is whether Brennan has it in him to make unpopular decisions; Hurrell, Taylor Cartwright, they’re big names on the Gold Coast. But they aren’t performing. Elgey must be recalled, and Brimson must debut for the Titans to be any chance of making their fourth top eight appearance.
The Gold Coast wants so badly for a team they can be proud of, it’s time to give them one.
What changes would you make if you were in Garth Brennan's shoes? Let us know in the comments below.