2021 Season Review: Gold Coast Titans – Swell building on the Gold Coast

Titans players celebrating a try. Photo: nrl.com

The Gold Coast Titans finished the season on a high despite a one-point loss to the Roosters in the elimination final.

They managed to sneak into the top eight and if Patrick Herbert had have provided one more pass they could have moved into the semi-final.

Although they made the finals in the end, the Titans season was still relatively up and down, with lots of room for improvement.

The Inner Sanctum takes a look at the year in review for the Gold Coast Titans.

What worked?

The Titans offence looked transformed this season, with marked improvement across their average points scoring, post contact metres and run metres.

With an upgraded forward pack the Titans were able to gain much better field position averaging 165 more run metres a game, with 1,752 metres a game up from 1,560 metres the year before.

They were also able to break through oppositions defensive line and pick up more metres post contact. This year they averaged 539.1 metres a game up from 493.8 metres last season, which was last in the competition.

With better field position the Titans were able to pile on more points this season. Their average rose to 24.2 points per game from 17.3 in 2020, the second-highest increase in the NRL.

In another positive, the try-scoring load didn’t just fall to a select few. While boom recruit David Fifita scored a club record 17 tries for the season, players such as Brian Kelly (12 tries), Corey Thompson (8), AJ Brimson (7), Phillip Sami (6), Patrick Herbert (6) and Jayden Campbell (5) all chipped in when required.

What didn’t?

While the Titans offence looked strong throughout the season their defence wasn’t good enough to compete with the top six teams.

Holbrook’s men conceded the seventh-most points per game on average in the NRL with 24.3, 3.8 points behind the top six and 12.4 points behind the league-leading Panthers.

The Titans also struggled to win close games this season, losing five games by 10 points or less, four of those were to fellow top eight teams and two of them were by one point.

On the other hand, they only managed to win two games by 10 points or less, both against bottom eight sides.

Of their remaining nine losses the Titans were well and truly beaten, losing by an average margin of 23.7 points per game, while also conceding six tries a game.

If the Titans are to make the jump and compete with the top six teams, they will need to need to tighten up their defence which can hopefully keep them in games longer, or help them win the close ones.

Who impressed?

The Titans are blessed to have a young and upcoming squad that are starting to dominate at first-grade level and are rewarded with higher honours.

Titans players Moeaki Fotuaika, AJ Brimson and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui representing Queensland. Photo: titans.com.au

21-year-old Moeaki Fotuaika had another great season off the back of his State of Origin debut at the end of 2020.

In his 22 appearances, this season Fotuaika demonstrated his strength with 57 tackle breaks and 1168 post contact metres while running for 3,163 metres for the season.

He also managed to be a mainstay in the Maroons forward pack, providing a real spark off the bench in all three games.

His recent form also saw him re-sign with the club for a further three seasons as he looks to continue to be a part of the Titans strong forward pack.

When the Titans recruited Tino Fa’asuamaleaui from the Storm at the end of 2020, they knew they were getting a budding star of the game, and in his first season, he has more than lived up to the expectation.

The 21-year-old lock was also powerful through the middle of the field with 51 tackle breaks, 2,998 run metres, 1,227 post contact metres and 14.1 average hit-ups.

He was also strong in defence, laying 651 tackles at 92.9 per cent efficiency.

Fa’asuamaleaui capped off his brilliant season claiming the Paul Broughton Medal for the club’s player of the year.

Tino Fa’asuamaleaui in action in the elimination final. Photo: nrl.com

When Brimson was unfortunately struck down with injury as the season drew to an end and finals was still well and truly on the cards, the Titans had to find an alternative option at fullback.

Waiting in the wings was 19-year-old fullback Jayden Campbell, who was a major player in steering his team into the finals.

In his seven appearances, he scored five tries, had three try assists, 31 tackle breaks, three line breaks and average 166 run metres a game, proving he can handle the pressure of first grade.

Campbell sensational finish to the year will provide Holbrook with a headache heading into preseason.

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Season highlight

The Titans put in their best performance when they needed it most in their round 25 drubbing of the New Zealand Warriors.

They had a lot on the line heading into their last game of the season, as they farewelled club champion Anthony Don in front of a home crowd where a 12-point win would secure them eighth spot.

However, the Titans were desperate to make a statement that they were a team that belonged in the finals, not just a team falling into eighth spot, and they did that with a resounding 44-point win.

The Titans absolutely dominated the Warriors in every major stat, having 1,176 more running metres, nine more line-breaks, 17 more tackle breaks and forced five more line dropouts. They also showed off their offensive prowess piling on eight tries, including a Fifita and Campbell double.

It was also a breakout game for Campbell who ran for 255 metres, had one try assist to go with his two tries, as he looked to prove he wouldn’t be a liability come finals time.

Season lowlight

The round six performance against the Manly Sea Eagles was one to forget for the Titans who were held scoreless for the first and only time this season.

The 36-point margin was by no means reflective of how the game played out as the Titans matched the Sea Eagles with field position but failed to get the potent offence humming.

The Titans were undone by the fact they struggled to hold onto the ball. They only completed their sets at 68 per cent, made 14 errors and gave away eight penalties as their defence struggled to hold up under the pressure.

Sea Eagles players celebrating one of their six tries against the Titans

Number one off-season priority

The Titans have made a concerted effort to add established talent to their forward pack over recent seasons and have already begun to reap the rewards. However, with his forward pack beginning to settle Holbrook now needs to move his focus to his spine.

The Titans have some young and exciting talent coming through the ranks like Campbell and Toby Sexton and have let go of some experience including Mitch Rein, Tyrone Peachey and Ash Taylor leaving some question marks around their spine.

To add further headaches for Holbrook, Campbell starred late in the season in Brimson’s absence putting his name forward to be the Titans fullback as of 2022. While there is talk that Brimson could move into the halves, that is still speculation at this point.

Holbrook will need to decide early in the pre-season on his spine and stick with it to ensure they can get enough chemistry to continue their rise up the ladder.

Way too early best 17 for 2022

With talks that co-captain Jamal Fogarty may be released from his contract, Holbrook may be forced to use Sexton at the halfback position full-time.

Brimson’s move to five-eighth has been mooted since his injury and if Fogarty is to depart his experience may be needed in the halves.

Paul Turner will arrive from the Warriors to provide further depth into the halves and the addition of Isaac Liu from the Roosters further strengthens the Titans forward pack.

Final Say

The Titans took the first step to becoming a genuine premiership contender this season and an attacking powerhouse of the NRL.

However, Holbrook and his coaching staff will need to find a way to sure up his team’s defence without hurting their attacking flare, but if they can find a way to do that they could be competing for a premiership very quickly.

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