14/04/2024

The Gold Coast Titans aiming for the finals in 2024. (Image: GC Titans/X)

With a fresh face taking the reins as head coach, will 2024 be the year that the Gold Coast Titans men see a return to finals?

Having missed out on finals last year, the Gold Coast Titans will be looking to put an underwhelming campaign behind them and continue with the quest for their first premiership. 

With veteran coach Des Hasler appointed as head coach for season 2024, as well as new faces joining the side, it will be a big year for the Titans. 

Last year

It wouldn’t have been the season that Titans fans were hopeful of. Once again, it was an underwhelming campaign from the Gold Coast.

The Titans kicked off their regular season with a win against the Illawarra Dragons. The Titans were inconsistent with their next ten games, sitting on a record 4-6 by the time their second bye rolled around. However, despite the inconsistency, the Titans looked to have finals in their sights hovering near or above the top eight early in the season.

But the Titans hit a significant bump in the road as the competition hit the halfway mark. A surprise move by the club saw Justin Holbrook cut from the head coach position.

Following Holbrook’s departure, the Titans suffered a dip in their ladder position that they struggled to come back from as the remainder of the regular season progressed. Their losses against the Raiders (round 18) and Dolphins (round 19) were where the Titans’ 2023 campaign noticeably went off the rails with the side hovering towards the bottom end of the ladder.

The side did record some important wins during the season, including an upset win against the Brisbane Broncos in round 17, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the Titans from finishing 14th on the ladder at the end of the regular season.

Squad Changes

In: Keenan Palasia (Brisbane Broncos), Harley Smith-Shields (Canberra Raiders)

Out: Kruise Leeming (Wignan Warriors, Super League), Treymain Spry (released), Joe Vuna (unsigned)

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Track Watch

The Titans will have a challenge heading into the new NRL season, with David Fifita (pectoral tear) and Jayden Campbell (dislocated patella) both sidelined with injuries. 

It’s a big loss for the Titans, with the duo a crucial part of the team. Although Titans assistant, Jim Lenihan, recently told media that it won’t be a long-term headache as the pair are expected to make a return in round five. 

The Titans could also be without Isaac Liu who is reported to have sustained a minor knee injury. Whilst no timeline has been given for his return so far, it’s likely that he’ll miss at least the start of the season.

Aside from the trio, the Titans don’t have any other injury concerns as a number of players are tracking well to make a potential return this season.

Beau Fermor and Ben Liyou have been getting into the midst of things after recovering from ACL injuries they sustained last season.

What to expect

For the Titans, their main priority would be to aim for finals.

Whilst a premiership is not to be expected this season, a noticeable improvement could be on the cards for the Titans this season, with a new head coach and the arrivals of Keenan Palasia and Harley Smith-Shields being added to a developing side who have shown glimpses of exciting plays at times.

It’s a big year for:

Beau Fermor 

A breakout season in 2022 from the second-rower had Titans and NRL fans head in a spin. His dominance on the field, where he made a career-best of 11 tries, helped him get a call-up to Queensland’s extended squad for game two of that year. 

But an ACL injury sustained just days out from the opening round derailed his 2023 campaign, as well as his Origin aspirations.

As Fermor heads into a new season, it will no doubt be an important one for him. The 25-year-old has been tracking well throughout the pre-season, pushing for selection in the round one squad against the Dragons in March.

If Fermor can produce a season similar to his 2022 campaign, it could be just what helps turn the Titans around and leads them to progress to a finals appearance once again. It could also see him fulfil his Origin aspirations as well.

Biggest unanswered question

Can the Titans find a solution to their defence woes?

Last season, the Titans were often impressed when it came to their forward line. The likes of Tino Fa’asuamaleaui, Moeaki Fotuaika and David Fifita, in combination with a strong backline, showed glimpses of potential.

But a clear weakness was in fact their defence. On multiple occasions, the Titans either led or drew at halftime, before ultimately going on to lose the match. This would prove costly for the side. The Titans finished 14th on the ladder, missing out on finals by just six points.

It’s not just an issue last season but has been quite noticeable in the Titans’ past few NRL campaigns.

If the Titans want a shot at finals in the near future, they will need to get on top of their defence and become more consistent throughout the full 80 minutes.

Coach index

Low

Expectations may have been high for the Titans last season, but for the incoming head coach, the new season will be about building stability and cohesion from here on out.

If last season is anything to go by, Hasler will enter the new season with quite a bit to work with.

Hasler’s coaching resumé showcases that he has the capability of getting teams to the finals. One needs to look at his past tenure with the Manly Sea Eagles, where he took the side to finals on numerous occasions.

While many will be wanting the Titans for a better season, Hasler will be looking for his side to show significant improvement off the back of several disappointing seasons.

Predicted round one line-up

1. Keano Kini

2. Alofiana Khan-Pereira

3. Brian Kelly

4. AJ Brimson

5. Phillip Sami

6. Kieran Foran

7. Tanah Boyd

8. Moeaki Fotuaika

9. Sam Verrills

10. Keenan Palasia

11. Jacob Alick

12. Beau Fermor 

13. Tino Fa’asuamaleaui 

14. Chris Randall

15. Jaimin Jolliffe

16. Erin Clark

17. Klese Haas

Ladder prediction

9 – 11th 

Whilst Des Hassler will be a welcomed addition to the club, it will be a tough task for the veteran coach to completely change the fortunes of the Titans in 2024.

The good thing is that Hassler already has a strong foundation to build upon. The Titans’ roster is stacked with talent, which includes both superstars and rising talent. However, Hassler will need time to build cohesion amongst the group, especially since there is a focus on developing the team’s resilience during games.

Having a roster that saw minimal player departure can help the Titans to develop the young talent there and build up the resilience it’s been needing to have for a long time.

Whilst it might be a long shot for the Titans to get a taste of premiership glory for the first time this season, a better of success could be if they see an improvement defensively. The new inclusions to the list could help see the Titans with more wins under their belt, as well as potentially rising up the ladder in 2024.

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