2019 has not been a season to remember for the Titans (see what I did there…).
Dead last in the NRL, coach Gareth Brennan copped the axe and a salary cap nightmare according to proposed saviour Mal Meninga leaves things looking pretty bleak in the near future for Queensland’s other, other team.
But what if the Titans could be fixed? By new coach Justin Holbrook… or by statistics. This instalment of By the numbers will attempt to work within the confines of the Titans salary cap and bad contract hell to propose a squad that could contend for finals in 2020 while building the core of a squad that can challenge for years to come. Titan up!
After 21 rounds the Titans have just 4 wins, 15 losses and a differential of minus 187. They are just as bad at home (2-8) as they are away (2-7). Here are the Titans league ranks in the key attacking statistical categories after 19 rounds (we draw the line here as the new coach begins experimenting).
And defensive plus negative play
|Rank||6th most||5th most||9th|
Not a pretty picture. On the positive our Titans (we run them for the duration of this experiment) complete their sets, ranking 5th in the comp. Clearly though this not leading to points (14th) or repeat sets (12th in runs) and our defence is overworked (6th most tackles) and underperforming (5th most missed tackles & most points allowed). We concede the 4th least handling errors (7.9), but are not creating for our skill players (11th in Try Assists, 16th in Line break assists).
For season 2020, we (the Titans) need better run production and tackle rates (forwards), more points (winger) and creators (halves). Who of the 2019 squad has performed and held their spot though?
2019 Forwards Review
Note: Darius Farmer is in the Squad but has not played an NRL game.
As you would expect it’s Arrow, Wallace, Proctor and before he was hurt, James. Fotuaika has been a pleasant surprise this year with an elite 91.5% tackle efficiency and 28 tackle breaks. Bryce Cartwright is the biggest surprise with a strong 89.9% tackle efficiency, a whopping 32 offloads and a very impressive 7 linebreak assists. Mitch Rein clearly outperformed Nathan Peats.
Leilani Latu has had a horror year with no tackle breaks and a poor 80.6% tackle efficiency. Shannon Boyd has been disappointing with just 6 tackle breaks, 2 offloads and no scores. Keegan Hipgrave is a tough, throwback style player but statistically he is a shocker with a 82.4% tackle efficiency. Will Matthews, Sam Stone and Nathan Peats were outperformed by their positional rivals.
2019 Backs Review
|Games Played||Tries||Try Assists||Linebreaks||Linebreak Assists||Tackle Efficiency %|
Note: Kea Pere, Tanah Boyd and Treymain Spry are in the Squad but have not played an NRL game.
Brian Kelly has been terrific, Phillip Sami have been effective, while Englishman Kallum Watkins gets a pass for coming in late, though he will be on a short leash for our 2020 Titans. Anthony Don continues to just produce each year (2nd in tries), though we are looking for someone a little more dynamic for that role. Tyrone Roberts has been creative (11 Try assists) while Dale Copley has been quietly productive and leads the try scoring.
A clear issue for the Titans is ball running from the Forwards. Our Titans ranks 15th in the NRL for Run Metres, despite sitting 10th for total number of runs. Hitups set the table for the rest of the attack and has been identified as a massive area of need for these 2020 Titans. To measure the production of our forwards ball running I am introducing the HMPR (Hitup metres per run) stat. This will measure the success of Forwards in their hitups and allow us to identify players to improve this area for 2020. To give context to elite production for this stat Dave Klemmer has a HUPMR of 9.64 on 16.6 Hitups per game.
|Player||Average Hitups per game||HMPR|
Fotuaika stands out again in what has truly been a breakout season for him. Shannon Boyd’s production, remembering this is his main role on the team, is concerning. B. Cartwright’s is awful and Ryan James is a big step down from previous years. New recruit Sam Stone is clearly not added the Hitup Metres we were looking for. This is an area we will definitively upgrade for 2020.
2020 Off Contracts
The following players come off contract at the end of 2019:
Michael Gordon (who has announced his retirement)
Based on their 2019 performances there would be no tears if we resigned none of them. There is some intrigue around the potential of Arthurs and Stockwell and we may retain them depending on our salary cap situation and the incoming players we may acquire. Jacks is a workmanlike reserve but with Tanah Boyd coming through, is replaceable.
Big Money Contracts
Every team has some contracts they would love a do over on (see Boyd, Darius). Our Titans however have many. Far too many. In fact, of the 55 most expensive players for 2019, 9 are Titans. 9, and we are dead last on the league table! The average should be 3.43 per team and we have a whopping 9!! Here are our high priced offenders
|Player||League Rank||Believed Salary||Signed until end of|
To see the list of the most expensive players visit
Evidently we like throwing 600K contracts at underperforming players (not you Jarrod Wallace). Of course, none of them come off contract this season… So here’s hoping the English Super League comes a calling. Seriously though, we will make everyone on this list except Ryan James, Jarrod Wallace and Kevin Proctor available in the hopes we can shed at least 2 of these deals. Taylor’s deal makes him unlikely to be taken and if he can get sorted with his personal issues there may still be a future for him on the Coast. Boyd has been a massive disappointment with his hit up runs and metres, which is what he was brought in for, but is a recent Kangaroos prop so we may have a taker who hopes to get him back on track. He’s gone. No one would pay half what we are paying Cartwright, so we’re stuck with him. Same for Peachey, though we have an idea of how to better utilise them (more on that later). Peats is fine but if he goes we have Rein so at that price someone like the Tigers may need him. He’s gone. Latu’s contract is abysmal. Hopefully English teams remember him with the Panther’s and use him as a short range weapon. He’s gone.
Good. Three bloated contacts gone in Boyd, Peats & Latu (remember, this is hypothetical) which means now we have some cash, 1.7 million a year to be exact, so let’s go shopping.
Big Mal tells us we have nothing left in the salary cap, after he signed his schoolboy prodigy, even with the off-contract players not being resigned. Thanks to the previous regime we don’t have much to work with other than the money we have saved on offloading the above contracts. With this in mind we have mined the off contract and feeder club talent available to create our wish list of players who meet our specific needs. Our 2020 wish list:
Run Mtrs Avg
|Hitup Metres Per Run (HMPR)|
Ese’Ese is the big ticket item on our list. We know that he is off-contract and is believed to be on half of Shannon Boyd’s salary. However Ese’Ese’s performance is far better than half of Boyds, in fact they are very much his equal. Here is the comparison of the two.
Run Metres Average
|Hitup Metres Per Run (HMPR)|
Canterbury Cup and Intrust Super Cup Targets
|691 Tackles||1st in the Cup||3,293 Run metres||2nd in the Cup||2nd most runs||Prop|
|Jaimin Jolliffe||22||Jets /|
|90.0% Tackle efficiency||6th in Cup in tackles||3rd in Total run metres||42 Tackle Breaks||9.16 HUPMR||Prop|
|Jordan Grant||25||Redcliff||91.5% tackle efficiency||44 Tackle Breaks||32 offloads||132.09 Average|
|43 Tackle Breaks||131.2|
|14.7 HUPS per gm||8.92|
|Harry Grant||21||Falcons||748 Tackles||3rd in Tackles||1st in Receipts||14 Tries||20 Try Assists||Hooker|
|155 Tackle breaks||1st in the Cup||1st in total run metres||2nd in Offloads||3rd in KRM||Wing|
The NRL minimum salary for a player in 2019 is 105K. This rises to 110K next season with the salary cap rising from 9.6m to 9.8m.
Without knowing all the ins and out of the contracts these players are currently on, we can offer each the following based on our current financial state.
|Herman Ese’Ese||24||300K||3||The prize jewel of our rebuild, affordable after disappointing year.|
|Toafofoa Sipley||24||225K||3||Still developing. Should be a starter in 2 years, could possibly become more.|
|Corey Jensen||25||125K||1||Needs a home, needs to improve defensively, worth a flyer offer|
|Danny Fualolo||24||200K||3||Underrated player. Has improvement in him. Improves current squad.|
|Lachlan Timm||23||200K||3||Potential future star.|
|Jaimin Jolliffe||150K||3||Gives him time to develop. A flyer.|
|Jordan Grant||25||125K||2||Age is against him getting a better deal.|
|Tom Gilbert||19||200K||4||Will lock him up into the start of his prime.|
|Harry Grant||21||200K||4||Will be our Hooker of the future.|
|Greg Leleisiuao||22||150K||4||Could become a game breaking try scorer. Return home for Ex-Titan Jnr.|
Total available to spend: 1.7m
Total offers made: 1.875
It is highly unlikely that we will sign all 10, but in the unlikely event that we do we will pull the offer to Corey Jensen and restructure some other contracts to cover the small gap. Since this is our hypothetical we will keep all 10 and squeeze the numbers into the cap thanks to some shrewd contract negotiating by Big Mal and the dumping of Keegan Hipgrave
Arrivals & Departures
Herman Ese’Ese Shannon Boyd
Toafoa Sipley Leilani Latu
Corey Jensen Will Matthews
Danny Fualolo Michael Gordon
Lachlan Timm Brenko Lee
Jaimin Joliffe Ryley Jacks
Jordan Grant Jack Stockwell
Harvey Grant Nathan Peats
Tom Gilbert Keegan Hipgrave
Greg Leleisiuao Darius Farmer
We have improved our HUPMR by %, found our future Hooker and Winger, greatly improved our Forward depth for this season and the next several, all while shedding some undesirable contracts. Ryley Jacks will be welcomed back if Ash Taylor continues to be MIA.
|Herman Ese’Ese||8.81||2.81%||8.66||Shannon Boyd|
|Toafofoa Sipley||8.47||4.56%||8.10||L. Latu|
|Danny Fualolo||9.20||8.10%||8.51||J. Stockwell|
|Corey Jenson||9.86||9.55%||9.00||W. Matthews|
|Jordan Grant||9.85||7.88%||9.13||K. Hipgrave|
The Roosters, ranked number 1 in the comp, have beaten us by 9.2% in 2019, this 7.15% improvement in HMPR for 2020 puts us in a much more competitive position next season. Improving our go forward is going to create more space and opportunities for our Halves and Backs, all driven by our key focus: improved Hitups.
2020 Depth Chart
And now….The grand unveiling of your new look 2020 Gold Coast Titans
|J.Arrow||M. Fotuaika||R. James||B.Kelly||P. Sami|
|T. Sipley||J. Grant||H. Ese’Ese||S. Stone||T. Peachey||Leleisuao|
|T. Spry||B. Cart|
|S. Stone||J.Joliffe||T. Gilbert||K. Pere|
|C. Jensen||T. Gilbert|
|A. Taylor||M. Rein||A. Brimson||T. Roberts|
|T. Boyd||H. Grant||T. Peachey||B. Cart|
Projected 2020 Team List Round 1 2019 Original Team List
1. A. Brimson Fullback 1. M.Gordon
2. A. Don Wing 2. B. Lee
3. K. Watkins Centre 3. T. Peachey
4. B. Kelly Centre 4. B. Kelly
5. P. Sami Wing 5. P.Sami
6. T. Roberts Five-Eighth 6. T. Roberts
7. A. Taylor Halfback 7. A. Taylor
8. J. Wallace Prop 8. J. Wallace
9. M. Rein Hooker 9. N. Peats
10. M. Fotuaika Prop 10. S. Boyd
11. K. Proctor 2RF 11. K. Proctor
12. R. James 2RF 12. R. James
13. J. Arrow Lock 13. J. Arrow
14. H. Ese’Ese Interchange 14. M. Fotuaika
15. T. Sipley Interchange 15. M. King
16. D. Fualolo Interchange 16. B. Cartwright
17. T. Peachey Interchange 17. A. Brimson
18. L. Timm Reserve 18. M. Rein
19. B.Cartwright Reserve 19. D. Copley
20. J. Grant Reserve 20. A. Don
21. H. Grant Reserve 21. K. Hipgrave
5 Changes to the starting lineup, 4 changes on the bench and 10 personnel changes. Peachey will play as the super utility, covering all the backs and playing as a forward when in game injuries arrive. In the event he is starting at centre or Fullback due to injury, Cartwright would take his bench spot covering the Forwards and the Halves. Watkins is on a short leash, if he doesn’t settle into the NRL game Copley will be recalled. Ese’Ese will play 40 mins a game as a devastating ball runner, Sipley and Fuasalo will give an improved performance from the bench than what we have endured in 2019. Leleisuao will push the Don, Grant will push Rein and the Forward depth will create many more options, and injury covers, in 2020. The increased Forward production willopen up opportunity for the halves and backs, with Kelly, Sami and Brimson expected to star.
Finals in 2020
In the interest of fairness; the Titans haven’t had a great run in 2019 with injuries and absences of key players in James, Arrow, Wallace and Taylor. With these key figures back on board, the return of the better performers (and those we couldn’t offload) in this year’s squad being used in the manner we have determined (Cartwright, Peachey) and with our new additions, these hypothetical Titans will play Finals football in 2020. Stronger ball running, more reliable tacklers, more creative attack and better finishing will be the hallmarks of these Titans.
All stats courtesy of NRL.com and Zerotackle.com
What do you think? How would you go about fixing the Titans? Let’s hear it in the comments.
In the meantime: Titans in the 2020 Finals – Titan Up!
As always, thanks for reading and good luck to your club this weekend