SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 13: Jarryd Hayne of the Titans celebrates with team mate Ashley Taylor after kicking a drop goal to win the match during the round 23 NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the Gold Coast Titans at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on August 13, 2016 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Brendon Thorne/Getty Images)

Pre-season prediction: 16th

Actual finish: 8th

Titans 2021 Player Movements

2021 Gains
Herman Ese'ese (Newcastle Knights, 2022), Tino Fa'asuamaleaui (Melbourne Storm, 2023), David Fifita (Brisbane Broncos, 2023), Sosefo Fifita (2023), Patrick Herbert (New Zealand Warriors, 2021), Sam McIntyre (Wests Tigers, 2021)
2021 Losses
Jai Arrow (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Shannon Boyd (retired), Bryce Cartwright (Parramatta Eels), Dale Copley (Brisbane Broncos), Keegan Hipgrave (Parramatta Eels), Ryan James (Canberra Raiders), Nathan Peats (released), Kallum Watkins (released)
Re-Signed
AJ Brimson (2022), Anthony Don (2021), Jamal Fogarty (2022), Jaimin Jolliffe (2022), Sam Lisone (2022), Kevin Proctor (2022), Phillip Sami (2022), Treymain Spry (2022), Sam Stone (2021)
Off Contract 2021
Tanah Boyd, Erin Clark, Anthony Don, Darius Farmer, Patrick Herbert, Sam McIntyre, Tyrone Peachey, Jonus Pearson, Mitch Rein, Sam Stone, Ashley Taylor, Jai Whitbread

The Titans roster heading into 2016 did not look good. They lost their most exciting talent in James Roberts to the Broncos, and Kane Elgey’s pre-season injury meant he would not play a single minute of the season.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2017 and the make-up of the Titans could not be more of a contrast.

They have a superstar fullback in Jarryd Hayne, uncovered a brilliant half in Ashley Taylor, Tyrone Roberts played well beyond expectations, they signed future NSW number nine Nathan Peats, and Ryan James emerged as one of the best forwards in the game.

Throw in a brilliant season by Anthony Don, huge improvements from Taia and Paasi, the destructive running of Konrad Hurrell and a return to form of Chris McQueen and Titans fans should be very happy going forward.

Star player: Ryan James

Ryan James, prior to 2016, was known more for his ill-discipline than his footballing abilities, but 2016 was a career defining season and one that now sees him amongst the game’s elite.

He scored a ridiculous 11 tries, a record for a front row forward, and made 10 line-breaks to go with 117 metres per game and just under 40 tackles.

I would be very surprised if he can reproduce similar levels in 2017, if he is not picked for Origin. His destructive running coming off the bench will give Queensland forwards nightmares.

Although the ability to give away a cheap penalty has not completely left his game, the improvement in his overall game in 2016 was incredible. His form attracted a big offer from the Broncos, but ultimately he stayed loyal to the Titans and penned a new deal.

He has been named as captain of the side going forward, perhaps the ultimate reward.

Season highlight: Mid-season signing spree

The Titans far exceeded expectations in 2016, but won’t be able to remain under the radar in 2017 thanks to their incredible mid-season signing spree.

Jarryd Hayne’s signing shocked the rugby league supporter base and provided the Titans with a superstar both on and off the field.

Nathan Peats was gift wrapped and delivered to the Gold Coast following the Eels sins of the past. Given the retirements of Friend and Srama, Peats should become an 80 minute player in 2017.

Konrad Hurrell couldn’t get a start in New Zealand but looked like the player of old once arriving on the holiday strip. His signing looks like an incredible piece of business.

Throw in Kane Elgey’s re-signing, and later the re-signing of Ryan James and the Titans have secured an incredible nucleus of talent going forward.

Best signing: Kevin Proctor

The Titans needed a marquee signing to continue their incredible momentum heading into 2017 and in former Storm superstar Kevin Proctor they have achieved just that.

He will join the likes of James, Taia, McQueen and Paasi in forming a scary looking forward pack. He is a younger replacement for the departing Greg Bird and will be looked upon to become a leader in the forward pack with the likes of James.

His signing brings a wealth of experience both at club and international level, his last game for the Storm being the Grand Final.

He’s a hard working forward with the ability to change the momentum of the game with an offload. Bird was probably the only key out but in Proctor, they’ve not only filled that spot but have arguably upgraded.

The positives:

Marquee Spine Going Forward: Hayne, Elgey, Taylor, Peats. That ‘spine’ puts the Titans right up there in terms of talent and excitement. Elgey and Taylor are probably the most exciting young halves combination in the competition, with Tyrone Roberts waiting in the wings should either suffer injury or a drop off in form. Anthony Don and David Mead may get a crack at fullback if Hayne plays Origin. Exciting stuff.

Return of Kane Elgey: Elgey had a brilliant rookie season in 2015 but was unfortunately unable to play a single minute in 2016 after suffering a pre-season injury. He will return to the field, and likely slot straight back into the side, and will find himself with incredible strike weapons out wide. Given another pre-season of training both skill wise and in the gym, added to the weapons he now has at his disposal out wide, and in front of him, there is no reason he can’t continue his rapid rise.

Season Grading: B

Anyone who says they had the Titans in finals contention in 2016 is either lying or was able to see into the future because when Elgey went down injured, they were in all sorts.

In isolation they had a brilliant season, playing finals footy for the first time since 2010, but it will more than likely be looked back upon as a year that set them up for future success.

Brilliant signings combined with the improvement of former squad players sees the Titans enter 2017 at short offs to play finals footy for the second straight season.

They won’t start as premiership favourites but there is a lot to like about this Titans side and I for one am excited to see how they travel in 2017.

Their 2016 certainly exceeded all expectations and left a lot of us who had them as wooden spoon morals looking foolish.

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