The Gold Coast Titans are already facing a headache ahead of the new season, with coach Justin Holbrook admitting he has no idea who'll be wearing the No.7 for the club in 2023 with as many as four players battling it out for first shot at the halfback role.
Toby Sexton, Tanah Boyd, AJ Brimson and new recruit Kieran Foran will each spend part of the pre-season outlining their credentials for the role. While the competition for spots is always healthy, coach Justin Holbrook admits the current uncertainty is less than ideal.
“It's probably not perfect going into the season not knowing who your No.7 is,” Holbrook told the Daily Telegraph.
“Penrith know Nathan Cleary is their half and Parramatta know Mitch Moses is their half, but for us, I honestly don't know right now.
“I'm really confident with the way Tanah finished. It took him a few years to find his feet… but the way he finished (2022) shows he has a bit more maturity to handle the responsibility.
“Toby is right in the mix, he'll have another pre-season and he'll have experience around him. It will be a battle in the halves. This year (2022), we didn't have those options.”
The club copped plenty of criticism this season for their decision to release starting No.7 Jamal Fogarty, seemingly without a proper strategy to replace him.
Sexton was given the starting role after just four NRL appearances but struggled and was eventually dropped towards the end of the season. Boyd had more success in the role in the year's final games, but Sexton says the difficult experience also had plenty of benefit to his personal development.
“It was a massive year physically, but more than anything it was mental,” Sexton said.
“The biggest thing for me was trying to enjoy my footy again. I didn't lose confidence… I just lost that enjoyment of playing.
“I went back to Queensland Cup and there wasn't that pressure to perform every week. I could go back to playing footy and enjoying what I do.
“Sometimes you need a year like that to move forward.”
Regardless of who starts the year as the halfback, Sexton is looking forward to the arrival of Foran, who brings over 250 NRL games of experience to a young club that will only benefit from his influence and wisdom.
“He will be unreal, having an experienced half I can turn to when I need to. Whether it's advice or footy in general – he's won premierships, played for his country and done everything in the game.
“He is going to be a massive factor for myself and the other halves. I'm really keen to learn from him.
“This year every spot is up for grabs and it gets the best out of every player. That's what we need at this club.”
Justin – don’t ask Mal for advice !
Just pick one and stick with him, and let him develop combinations with Foran at 6 throughout the pre-season. Tell the other two that they will play 6 and 7 in the Queensland Cup, and will move into the equivalent position in the first team in the event of injury.
Keep it simple, eliminate the stress, and minimise the in-fighting
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