The wheels have well and truly fallen off the Gold Coast Titans early in the 2022 season, and it's little surprise that certain members of the media have begun to single out a lack of performance from David Fifita as the reason why.

Justin Holbrook's side started the season with a high-scoring loss to the Parramatta Eels, which was followed up by a narrow - and ultimately unconvincing - win over the New Zealand Warriors.

It has been all downhill from there though.

A loss to the Canberra Raiders in the nation's capital was sloppy at best, before they were involved in what has been dubbed as the worst game of all time against the Tigers - escaping with a victory that neither team deserved after a last-minute miracle try.

They then followed that up last weekend by being blitzed in the first half against the Parramatta Eels, and, while they were able to make it interesting during the second half on the back of a couple of tries amid captain's controversy, they were never truly in the discussion to win the match.

It means the Titans, aiming to make the finals again, have started the season with just two wins from their first five games - and neither of them all that convincing.

That, despite a new spine, AJ Brimson in the halves, a barnstorming crop of forwards who should have been better for last year and experience building across the side.

NRL Rd 20 - Titans v Knights

Simply put, the start of the 2022 season hasn't been anywhere near good enough from the Gold Coast.

While some discussion has centred around Brimson and his role in the team, plenty have begun to take pot shots at Fifita who has averaged 127 metres per game so far to go with four offloads, four line breaks and a try in his five appearances.

Those numbers might be serviceable, however they aren't what the Titans are paying for - Fifita is on a deal reportedly worth more than $1 million per season.

Scott Sattler labelled Fifita as "one of their worst players at the moment" when speaking on SEN, while Darren Lockyer said his effort simply wasn't up to scratch.

The problem though is this - Fifita isn't touching the ball enough.

Whenever he does get the ball, he becomes the best forward in the game and that was evidenced by some of his work against the Eels during the dying stages on Saturday evening during the Round 5 loss.

What that doesn't make up for though is the fact his teammates refuse to get him the ball.

In his five games so far, Fifita has touched the ball 13, 14, 17, 16 and 19 times.

Meanwhile, a player like Payne Haas, for example, is playing less minutes, but has touched the ball 25, 17, 13, 24 and 27 times in his five games.

The games Haas had less than 20 touches of the football were games he played less than 60 minutes. As soon as the Brisbane prop ticks over the hour, he has touched the ball at least 24 times on each occasion.

NRL Trial Match - Cowboys v Broncos

In fact, in 329 minutes of action, Haas has touched the ball 108 times at an average of once every 3.04 minutes, while Fifita has played 384 minutes but only touched the ball 79 times at an average of once every 4.86 minutes.

While the forwards play in different positions, there is no real reason for the Titans' best attacking weapon to be that far behind Haas when it comes to touching the football and being able to influence the game.

What the statistics won't show is just how poor some of that ball Fifita has gotten, while also not showing instances like the dying stages of Saturday's game against the Eels when the Titans were desperate for a try but continually refused to use Fifita before he made his own way to dummy half and proceeded to skittle multiple defenders on his way to the tryline.

It was a play that Fifita is capable of, but one that hasn't been seen nearly enough this year after he finished 2021 as a runaway leader when it came to tackle breaks and wreaking havoc on defensive lines.

Some of that is Fifita's fault of course - he isn't going searching for the ball nearly enough.

But a lot of it is down to his teammates, and the way the team is being coached by Justin Holbrook.

There were always going to be growing pains this year for the Titans given a new-look spine, which saw AJ Brimson move to the halves and Jayden Campbell take over at fullback.

NRL Rd 23 - Titans v Storm

Campbell's injury in the last fortnight has undoubtedly not aided Fifita, however the fact of the matter is this - Brimson, Campbell, replacement fullback Jamayne Isaako and Brimson's halves partner Toby Sexton simply haven't made the effort to include Fifita in their attack as much as they should have.

Fifita needs to improve his own game and work rate, of that there can be little doubt.

But he won't be able to do a great deal about anything unless he is hit with quality ball in the right areas.

It's no good Fifita working his way into the middle of the field time and time again and coming up against middle forwards who can gang up on him.

The Titans have a weapon out wide and must use him in the position he is intended to be used.

It's not as if Fifita is doing a lot wrong. He has made just three errors in five games, but he is simply not getting the opportunities he needs.

But it's no good blaming Fifita for problems which are impacting the entire team and their style of play.

It's time for the Titans to actively use their best weapon, or the season could become a write off before they get a chance to correct it.

Brought to you by Bendix Brakes


  1. Sounds plausible to me, Scott.
    If I look at the 2022 figures for David Fifita and Viliame Kikau (who I see as a comparable player) then Fifita’s paper stats look much better:
    Tackle Breaks 22 v 10
    Average Metres 127 v 92
    Total Metres 635 v 460
    Post Contact Metres 225 v 178

    But I regard Kikau as being the more dangerous, effective player.
    I don’t see this as being Fifita not trying. I suspect – as you say – he is having to play a lot harder, and for less effect, because of the way he is being used.

    (Though admittedly, any forward would look good working with the rest of the Panthers pack.)

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