The Gold Coast Titans were supposed to show improvement in 2021, and they did. It was inconsistent, but a trip to the finals was the end result. Here is their season review.
Pre-season predicted finish: 7th
Actual finish: 8th
Record: Ten wins (-3)
2021 season snapshot
The Titans made their return to finals Footy. That was the goal heading into the season and was achieved on the literal last day of the regular season.
Most fans will be happy with the result, however you can't help but feel they fell a week short of what they deserved.
"If only he had passed!"
Unfortunately, despite some fantastic rugby league on the holiday strip played in 2021, that very quote is going to sum up their season.
Star Player: David Fifita
Fifita's season wasn't perfect. Early in the season it was widely agreed upon that Tino Fa'asuamaleaui was outplaying his fellow Origin forward.
That said, Fifita was an absolute monster at times and won games off his own massive back. If he had been given the opportunity he would have taken his side through to the second weekend of the finals.
He crossed for 17 tries, which is unheard of for a second-rower. 22 line breaks, 44 offloads, 125 metres run per game - stats for days! Oh and he also broke a lazy 155 tackles. 155!
Fifita reacted to being relegated to the bench in a way that proved how much he matured this season. He took it on the chin and secured that chip firmly to his shoulder and went at 100 per cent.
He signed on for a reported million a season yet I'm happy to stand up and say he lived up to the hype, and then some.
Breakout Star: Jayden Campbell
Wow! Talk about an instant impact!
The Titans have a gem in young Jayden Campbell. Yes, we all know who his father is, and we will be reminded every game for years to come, but this kid is special.
His stats were impressive: five tries, three try assists, 31 tackle breaks and three line-break assists is just seven appearances.
AJ Brimson is still the man, for mine, on the Gold Coast. Campbell's brilliance in his rookie season will see the Origin utility shifted back into the halves. That is a huge wrap for Campbell.
Rugby League Outlaws present their Season Finale and talk all the big issues
Stars Deliver: How many times have we seen big name signings arrive at a new club only to not live up to expectation, or their wage? It happens often.
The Titans outlaid a mammoth amount of salary cap space on two Origin forwards placing immediate pressure and expectations on both.
Despite the odd less than stellar game, both delivered in a big way.
David Fifita was a monster. When he was on, he was largely unstopped. He broke tackles for fun and scored a try tally more expected from wingers than second rowers.
Big Tino had a brilliant season in the middle. He ran for over 135 metres per game and tackles at over 92 per cent. Both were brilliant.
Throw in Moeaki Fotuaika, who is still only 21, and the Titans have a crop of youngsters that match the majority of clubs.
Campbell looks as though he has a mortgage on the number one jersey for next season. Toby Sexton will likely partner AJ Brimson in the halves.
Marzhew is a powerhouse winger who threw defenders aside in his eight appearances. It is frightening to think how powerful he will be with another, first grade, off-season under his belt.
Fotuaika is one of the game's fastest rising middle forwards. I cannot believe he is still 21. He has four full seasons under his belt. Watch out.
Ash Taylor era ends: What a shame this was. The Ash Taylor era, which promised so much, limped to an unsatisfying conclusion as he was not offered a new contract and released from the club.
Taylor burst onto the scene five years ago and won rookie of the year honours. His performances were such that it kick started a bidding war between the Titans and Broncos.
He signed a five-year deal worth a million dollars a season and was expected to be an Origin regular whist taking the Titans to the promised land.
They wouldn't play finals footy again until 2021, where Taylor was a bit part player.
For the record I believe there is still a footballer in Taylor but a move away from the Gold Coast is best for player and club.
He should have passed: Patrick Herbert will feel badly enough about this, so I'm not going to pile on.
It's not for certain. Players were covering quickly and Thompson would have had to have played it perfectly. Fifita would have trampled them and scored though, of that I have no doubt.
It's such a shame that the season will ultimately be remembered for this but it happened. On the positive, they were one pass from ousting the Roosters in the Finals.
Season Grade: B
The Titans made a statement in 2021. They're back in the reckoning. A brilliant young coach and two superstar signings have them rocking.
Throw in a return to finals footy, some ridiculous highlight moments and the unveiling of a brilliant crop of young talent and this makes for a very positive season.
The way the season ended had Titans fans, and neutrals, throwing their arms in the air, but if they hadn't have made that break and fell short there would be nothing but positive thoughts.
This side are fun to watch again. More importantly they can win again, with consistency.
2021 was never about winning the title. It was about bringing in two monster forwards with genuine Origin pedigree and taking that first step to success.
They took that step, and then some!