The Gold Coast Titans had a horror 2017 season. They had the most injuries in the NRL. They had on-going issues involving their head coach and origin star Jarryd Hayne. They also finished one spot above the Newcastle Knights on the table which hasn’t been a good feat for a very long time.
2018 has brought change in almost every department. With Neil Henry gone, Garth Brennan has been given the opportunity to turn the team around. Jarryd Hayne has since moved back to the Parramatta Eels. Several other players have been allowed to walk, most notably Chris McQueen and Leivaha Pulu. These moves have helped free up a ton of money to make some key signings for the organization.
Garth Brennan, who began his coaching career in Newcastle, first established himself as a head coach in 2010 where he took over the head coaching duties for the Newcastle Knights NYC team. The following season the team made the finals for the very first time.
In 2012 Brennan joined the Penrith Panthers to become their NYC head coach. In his first year in Penrith he took the team to the NYC final while picking up NYC coach of the year honours. In the 2013 season Brennan lead the under 20s side to their first premiership.
Another year on saw Brennan succeed again, coaching the Panthers New South Wales Cup side to the premiership. He would repeat this in 2017, as well as winning the clubs first NRL State Championship, defeating the PNG Hunters 42-18.
If you’re keeping track, that’s 3 premierships in 8 seasons as head coach. Brennan has worked first-hand with Penrith Panthers rising star Nathan Cleary. Titans fans will pray their new head coach can help develop their own young gun, Ash Taylor the same way.
Another highlight to bringing Brennan in is the quality of players he’s brought along with him. Former Dragons and Panthers rake Mitch Rein has signed on with the Titans for one season, having only played five games of first grade last year. In his season debut with the Panthers, Rein scored two tries on route to a 38-0 victory of the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs.
Rein was apart of the Brennan coached New South Wales Cup premiership winning team last season, also being named in the team of the year. It was just three years ago Rein was playing in the City vs Country game, now he struggles to get a look at first grade. The struggles don’t come from lack of talent, but perhaps lack of space.
To have an experienced workhorse such as Mitch Rein on your bench or waiting in reserves is a huge bonus. Not to mention, he’s only 27 years old! Rein will be key midway through the season if Nathan Peats is to make the New South Wales Origin side again, or miss time through injury as he has done in past seasons.
Also coming over from the Penrith Panthers is the 120kg monster, Leilani Latu. Latu, 25, has previously played for the Indigenous All Stars in 2016-17, New South Wales City in 2016 and most recently Tonga, where he scored two tries on debut against Fiji in their 2017 Pacific test. Latu became a regular for the Panthers last season, making 19 appearances and amassing 467 post contact metres. He will provide a huge boost from the Titans bench, something they lacked last season.
Possibly the biggest pick up for the Gold Coast comes in the form of Bryce Cartwright. Cartwright, the nephew of former Titans head coach, John Cartwright, had a break out season with the Panthers in 2016 where he played for the New South Wales City team and was also selected to the New South Wales Blues training squad. He even made the switch from the back-row to the halves to partner Nathan Clearly in one of the most dynamic halves combinations in the league.
Following that terrific season, Bryce has since been caught up in one controversy after another, perhaps effecting his play on the field. In 2017, Cartwright struggled early with injury and never quite found the form he had shown from seasons prior. With a change of scenery, if Cartwright can produce anything we’re used to seeing from him, including his lethal second phase play, Titans fans will be extremely happy with their pick up.
The Titans haven’t only had to rely on Panthers rejects to change their look and direction. They made a great signing in Brenko Lee, returning to Queensland after stints at the Raiders and Bulldogs. Brenko began last season in great form as the starting centre for the Dogs, as their season went downhill so did Lee’s form, resulting in him being dropped back to the NSW Cup side. With the Gold Coast, Lee will have the opportunity to regain a starting spot in first grade, perhaps partnering Konrad Hurrell in what could be one of the most damaging centre combinations in the league.
Brendan Elliot joins the side from Newcastle on a one-year deal. With 19 tries in his 37 NRL appearances Elliot will be looking to impress his new team. Still only 24, Elliot has shown flashes in his early career but will need to stay fit in order to hold down a spot in the 13. This will prove tough with the centre positions being occupied by Brenko Lee, Dale Copley and Konrad Hurrell, as well as other new recruit Michael Gordon, who is assumedly the Gold Coasts first choice fullback.
Michael Gordon, now 34, has elected to play on for a further season. With 225 NRL appearances, Gordon’s presence will help the young Titans squad. Not to mention, he’s one of the games best goal kickers, kicking at better than 78% last season, an improvement to Ash Taylors 64%.
The Titans also have a stack of youngsters who will be eager for more this season. Young forwards Max King, Morgan Boyle and Keegan Hipgrave were given opportunities last season and didn’t disappoint. They’ll be competing with recruits Jai Arrow and Jai Whitbread, both joining from the Broncos.
Arrow has already had a taste of first grade and will be looking to follow the career path of Queensland forward, Jarrod Wallace. Arrow was one of three (Brenko Lee, Ash Taylor) who were named in the Queensland emerging squad at the end of the season. Whitbread, 20, is yet to play first grade but after an impressive preseason, that should soon change.
What may be a more under the radar move is the promotion of Alexander Brimson to the top team. Brimson was the Titans NYC player of the year last season, dazzling with footwork and speed. Still just 19 years of age, Brimson would be the perfect partner for Ashley Taylor to work alongside. If you’ve never heard of Alexander Brimson, you’re in for a treat. Kane Elgey will have to be nothing short of phenomenal to keep this kid out.
Steady improvement from Ash Taylor, more origin play from Peats and Wallace, as well as stand out performances from captain Ryan James will be key to the Titans season. If they can remain healthy, Garth Brennan may find further success, this time as a first-grade head coach.
How do you think the Gold Coast Titans will fare in the upcoming season?