For the seventh time in eight NRL seasons, the Gold Coast Titans will be watching the finals series at home having once again failed to progress beyond the regular season of the competition.
First-year head coach Garth Brennan came to the club with a mountain of work in front of him but the same problems that have plagued the club for some time proved harder to overcome than many had likely anticipated.
Once again there are serious questions about the viability of rugby league in the famous holiday destination given another campaign with disappointing crowds, woeful results and big-name recruits failing to spark in any way, shape or form.
Things aren’t at the point where the club needs success to stave off foreclosure or anything like that, but the Titans are in desperate need of a massive shift in fortunes on and off the field if they’re to silence those starting to ask the tough questions.
Finishing just two spots ahead of the bottom rung of the ladder looks bad, but here’s how the Titans wound up there.
There wasn’t exactly much to crow about in terms of results for the Gold Coast Titans, but the promising performances of some individual players will at least give Garth Brennan and fans hope that they’re close to turning the corner.
Jai Arrow proved an excellent addition to the squad and he was rightly rewarded with a Queensland Maroons jersey for his efforts after switching to the club from the Brisbane Broncos.
The young forward combined well with established guys like Jarrod Wallace and skipper Ryan James to lay a decent platform for the Gold Coast in most contests, at least giving the playmakers and backline players the chance to create some opportunities off the back of their hard work.
There aren’t many games worth looking back on given the Titans only managed eight wins across the entirety of 2018, but an opening round win over the Raiders, who many thought would be amongst the top four or five best sides in competition at the time gave the fans some hope.
Wins against the Broncos (26-14) and Warriors (36-12) were also memorable in their own right.
Results aside, the emergence of young guys like Alex Brimson at fullback and Moeaki Fotuaika will also please Garth Brennan, who is famed for his work with youth.
Is it cheating if I just put the whole 2018 season as a lowlight for the Titans?
It might be a touch on the harsh side, but let’s face it, the entire season is pretty much a write-off for those guys just north of Tweed Heads and there are probably too many lowlights to get through them in any real detail here.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the season was the signing of Bryce Cartwright from the Penrith Panthers. Cartwright had had some troubles in Sydney’s west but it was hoped that getting out of the Penrith goldfish bowl and getting the chance to reunite with Garth Brennan in a new environment might give Carty the chance to turn things around.
Cartwright’s 2018 season was a nightmare from start to finish and had almost no redeemable features whatsoever. His defence was woeful, his attack non-existent, he appeared to not bother trying on more than one occasion and he was also accused by some of deliberately avoiding tackles at various points in the season.
Overall, the Titans simply did not aim up defensively enough all season, conceding a total of 582 points across 2018.
Alex ‘AJ’ Brimson looked handy player when he was thrust into the halves alongside Ash Taylor but he went to another level when he was shifted to fullback and he appears to be the long-term answer at the back moving forward for the Titans.
The 20-year-old looked far more comfortable at the back and was able to inject himself into the attack at will, creating plenty of distinct opportunities for a Titans side that needed to score points to out-run a woeful defensive record.
Veteran Michael Gordon was his usual busy self and while it’s clear he’s at the end of a distinguished career, he did top the point-scoring charts for the Titans with 132 points while Anthony Don’s 15 tries proved he’s still a solid top-level footballer and rightly a cult hero on the Gold Coast.
All of it. Everything needs to improve if the Titans are any chance of getting themselves back into finals football for just the third time since 2011.
Garth Brennan will have time and the backing of decision-makers on the Gold Coast to turn things around, but another season like the one just gone won’t do him any favours as he tries to make the transition from highly successful lower grades coach to top-flight mentor.
There are the bare bones of a decent unit at the Titans, but getting the best out of Ash Taylor, who suffered a noticeable drop after being overlooked to Cooper Cronk for the Maroons will hold the key to turning things around.
2019: A brief look ahead
Gains: Shannon Boyd (Canberra Raiders), Tyrone Peachey (Penrith Panthers), Tyrone Roberts (Warrington Wolves).
Losses: Kane Elgey (Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles), Brendan Elliot (released), Joe Greenwood (Wigan Warriors).
There hasn’t been a raft of changes since the end of the season on the Gold Coast as yet, but there are thoughts that a few more players are definitely on the market and unwanted by the Titans.
As things stand, big prop forward Shannon Boyd represents a handy addition to a decent forward pack for 2019. His size will add another dimension for the Titans who probably lacked one big bopper through the current campaign while Tyrone Roberts returns to the club to offset the loss of Kane Elgey to the Sea Eagles.
Tyrone Peachey could be one of the best signings in the league if he can earn a regular spot and hone his craft rather than being shifted around and used as a jack of all trades like has for much of his time at Penrith. There have been reports he’s no longer keen to make the move north, but given the rule changes, he’d be relying on the Titans releasing him and that doesn’t appear likely.
The Titans locked down decent players like Jarrod Wallace (2022), Dale Copley (2020), Anthony Don (2020) and Phillip Sami (2020) and Brennan will back himself to get the best out of them as well as the rest of a fairly average squad.
2019 will likely be another rebuilding season for the Gold Coast Titans, but a need to nab some tangible on-field results will mean there’s plenty of pressure on the staff at the club.
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