Although it seems like a statement containing just a little bit of hyperbole, the roster taken into 2017 by the Gold Coast Titans may very well be the best the club has ever seen.
The Titans entered 2016 with the club’s second wooden spoon hanging over their heads as they faced almost zero expectation in terms of finals footy.
2015’s top try scorer James Roberts left the club for the Broncos while Kane Elgey, the man who despite his young age and rookie status proved to be the Titans best creative player, had his season ended before it even started due to a horror pre-season injury.
2017, however, shapes as a year the Titans not only play finals footy for the second season in a row but may even see the club push for a top-four finish.
Greg Bird was the biggest name to exit the club, while Josh Hoffman and Luke Douglas also departed, but across the board, the Titans enter 2017 with a superior side to that they set out in last year’s finals appearance.
Kane Elgey returns from injury and will form the game’s most exciting, young halves partnership with Ashley Taylor, while Kevin Proctor’s signing provides yet another match winner in an already scary forward pack.
Jarrod Wallace will likely replace Luke Douglas, and given the increased minutes and responsibility, should become a vital cog in the Titans machine after a promising start to his career at the Broncos.
Given the Titans side of 2009 finished 3rd and featured players such as Scott Prince, Preston Campbell, Matt Rogers and Ashley Harrison, it’s a big call to say the 2017 side could be better, but I genuinely believe it can.
Fullback: Jarryd Hayne
Arguably the biggest signing in the club’s history, certainly since the signing of Scott Prince and Preston Campbell. Hayne, once allowed the time to find his way back into the game, will provide the Titans with plenty of attack from the back, as well as making seemingly impossible try-saving tackles. The only problem here is what to do with the fullback position when Hayne is picked for Origin. One of the most marketable players in the game.
Wingers: Anthony Don & John Olive
Anthony Don is one of the most underrated players in the game, and an absolute try-scoring freak at that. John Olive is the most likely to fill the other wing position and should continue to improve on his two tries scored in five games last season.
Centres: Konrad Hurrell & Dan Sarginson/Nathan Davis
Hurrell, on his day, is one of the most destructive centres in the competition and is set for a monster year after hitting somewhere near top pace and shape late in 2016. Dan Sarginson arrives in Australia having represented England three times, and 125 Super League appearances under his belt. I’m not 100% sure regarding Davis’s contract status, but if re-signed he will likely rival Sarginson for the starting spot.
Halves: Kane Elgey & Ashley Taylor
I have said it before and will do so once more, this is the most exciting, young halves partnership in the competition, and could be the core of the Titans side for the next decade. Elgey had an incredible 2015 season, while Taylor had an equally incredible 2016 season. Elgey’s injury may have slightly set back his development, but I’m really looking forward to seeing what these halves can create in 2017 and beyond.
Props: Ryan James & Jarrod Wallace
Ryan James was one of the elite forwards in 2016 scoring 11 tries, making 10 line-breaks and generally destroying opposition defences. Jarrod Wallace has signed from the Broncos and will look to build on his 73 games of NRL experience. James will captain the side in 2017, the ultimate reward for his 2016 season.
Hooker: Nathan Peats
I still can’t believe the Eels like Peats leave, while the Titans were only too happy to welcome the unwanted number nine. Peats is the heir-apparent to NSW hooker Robbie Farah and should be set for a monstrous 2017 season. The Titans looked a far better side after Peats signed and with a full pre-season behind him, should be even better going forward.
Back Row: Zeb Taia, Kevin Proctor & Agnatius Paasi
Proctor’s signing completes a scary back row for the Titans. Taia and Paasi developed into stars in 2016 and should improve under the mentorship of Proctor. These three are big, fast, clever forwards with the ability to create second phase play for the likes of Hayne and Taylor.
Bench: Chris McQueen, David Shillington, Eddy Pettybourne & Tyrone Roberts
The Titans bench features two former Queensland representatives, and the massively improved Pettybourne and Roberts. McQueen may feature in the run-on side at the expense of either Paasi or Taia but otherwise will probably play 60 minutes off the bench each week. He has a solid 2016 after moving from the Bunnies, while Shillington reminded many of his talents in 2016. Roberts will likely play in nine at times, although given the relative inexperience of his halves combination, he can easily fill in if games drift away from the young six and seven.
It’s hard to see any obvious weakness in that Titans 17, although depth may perhaps be a problem if the injury list grows early.
That said, with a little bit of luck, this Titans side is capable of pushing for a top six, or even a top four position.