Gold Coast Titans head coach Justin Holbrook has said the club needs to put in a full-team effort with younger players and experienced heads combining in order to beat the Sydney Roosters on Saturday evening.
The Gold Coast Titans have qualified for their first finals series since 2016 finishing eighth after narrowly missing out last season where they finished ninth, falling short of the top eight by two points.
In Justin Holbrook’s second year at the helm, he’s been able to take the club to wooden-spooners two years ago to now contesting in a finals series, citing a positive progression to this point.
The head coach said making finals was a goal for the club from the very beginning of the season. Having needed to win against Canberra in Round 25 to sneak into the eight, the result went Gold Coast’s way where the build-up to this weekend’s final and momentum coming from that 44-0 win contributing to a feeling of confidence in creating a real shot at making a dent in September.
“We wanted to play finals from the start of the year and we’re in there now,” Holbrook told media on Friday.
“I don’t think it was a miracle, I think the results were favoured results and then we had to burn our right by playing so well in the last game. But look, it’s all done and dusted and we’re alive and we’re playing finals and we’re happy about it.”
Pointing towards the reasons why the Titans have got into the position they find themselves in, Holbrook has lauded the club’s young stars and rookies who have all given an insight into the promising future of the club.
Holbrook said that every new player in the squad has adapted well and performed their roles, including Member’s MVP Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and Jayden Campbell who won the club’s Rookie of the Year, each presented at the Paul Broughton Medal count last night.
“The members, they want to see people who are trying their absolute best and it’s your teenagers… but I think all the new players have had that real buy-in,” Holbrook mentioned.
“I think Tino [Fa’asuamaleaui], Dave [Fifita], Paddy Herbert that have come in, Sam McIntyre, every new player that has come to our club, you can show that they want the club to do well and that’s why we’re playing finals.”
While Holbrook was full of praise for the Member’s MVP recipient, he also made sure to mention other players who mightn’t have received the accolades at the awards night but was equally deserving of plaudits.
“I don’t want to single Tino out, he thoroughly deserved it but I think all the players, I don’t think Dave gets enough wrap for what he can do,” he said.
“He’s finished the regular season as the top forward try scorer, third in the history of the game, most tackle breaks, our top-try scorer. You can focus on other things but he’s a big part of our side and as all the players have bought in well that’s why we’re still alive.”
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Another first-year player, Campbell, who played six games for Gold Coast this season and scored five tries shot out of the blocks with 11 tackles made in his debut game in Round 13. Campbell ultimately won the club’s Rookie of the Year award, the head coach acknowledging the fullback’s year and the full list of rookies who have excelled when given the chance.
“He’s got a lot of good recognition which is great but for him, I said ‘you’ve just got to go out and play, don’t worry about the external stuff, just play it naturally’,” Holbrook advised of what he’s said to Campbell ahead of this weekend.
“It’s amazing how many rewards you can get in the game if you go out and play well. I think he deserved it.
“We’ve had a great year for rookies, Toby Sexton, Greg Marzhew were right up there and whenever those guys have had a chance they’ve come in and we’ve been winning games so it’s terrific and I’m really happy for Jayden.”
On the other end of the spectrum, having Fa’asuamaleaui as an experienced finals campaigner after two seasons with the Melbourne Storm, Holbrook says while the club and players may lean on him for advice, it’s not completely necessary to the Titans’ finals charge.
“It’s not vital, it’s good to have cause it adds to that confidence and sort of self-belief but he’s just a part of our team and we need all 17 to play well,” he said.
“That’s why we got the result we got last week and that’s what we’re gonna need tomorrow night. We’re not gonna rely on one or two guys with experience, we’re gonna rely on all 17 and that’s the way we’re gonna beat the Roosters.”
Touching on the Roosters, Holbrook remained upbeat about the Titans’ chances and raised the point that every side had its challenges throughout the year but commented on his side’s growing self-belief.
“[Packing up and moving] was an issue for a lot of sides this year and we were one of them but we did enough to get into the eight,” he stated.
“Now we’ve just got to be better for 80 minutes than the Roosters, that’s what it comes down to now. It’s a great position for us to be in and I think we’ve been improving over the last month and we’re ready to go tomorrow night.
“We’ve got a lot of confidence and self-belief. We’ve been playing to try and win. We know it’s going to be hard, that’s why you’re in the finals but we want that and we’re confident [if] we play well we can win tomorrow night and that’s all we can ask.”
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