The 2018 #NRL Pre-Season is just about locked in.
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Rags to riches to rags once more.
Their on-field performance got the Gold Coast into the finals for the first time since 2010 (earning Neil Henry a contract extension) and Jarryd Hayne's late season play had fans counting on further success in 2017.
The roster in the 2016-17 offseason went through significant changes with the likes of Greg Bird and Zeb Taia moving on. Kevin Proctor, Jarrod Wallace and Dan Sarginson were the high profile additions.
Put simply 2017, their 10-year anniversary in the NRL, is a season to forget for the Titans. By winning seven of their 24 matches, only the back-to-back-to-back wooden spoon holding Newcastle Knights lost more games. They managed to place as high as 11th on the ladder in rounds 10 and 13.
The Gold Coast is the only NRL team that can look back on 2017 and genuinely attribute injuries as a portion of the reasoning about their poor season. From round one they came away with injuries to multiple key players and the group of wounded continued to grow with first 17 talent. Across 26 rounds 34 players played for the Titans, 10 of those players made their NRL debut. That's the most in the NRL.
A three match mid-season winning streak (round 16 v Wests Tigers 26-14, round 17 v Dragons 20-10 and round 19 v Sharks 30-10) put Gold Coast within four competition points of the top eight at the start of round 20.
However, the hope of another fast finish slide into the finals was not going to become a reality as they lost every match from round 20. During that run they averaged conceding 32 points and scoring 11 points per game.
The addition of Jarrod Wallace to the squad has given the Titans a pairing with Ryan James that will be formidable for at least the next couple of seasons. Wallace, after arriving as an afterthought in the Brisbane Broncos pack, elevated his game to State of Origin level. He played 21 matches for Gold Coast with one of the toughest workloads in the NRL. The 26-year-old's no frills football compliments James' damaging runs and offloads.
The working relationship between Neil Henry and the players. We know it didn't work between Jarryd Hayne and Neil Henry, it's not clear how many others preferred Hayne or Henry. It's possible a lot of them didn't like what either were offering the Titans. Injury prevention methods need to be high on the agenda for season 2018. Gold Coast can't afford another season decimated by injuries, they are struggling after losing physio Dan Ferris to Manly.
Ash Taylor | The one Titan who played in every match this season, Taylor's development towards becoming a premier half was encouraging. He kept himself in the conversation for the best short kicker in the NRL and provided a spike in try assists compared to 2016. Like the Titans as a group Taylor had awful performances some weeks, but he gets some reprieve as a second year player who lost players around him to injury and lacked support at five-eighth.
Anthony Don | Don's ability to finish the most difficult of try scoring opportunities was on full display once again this season. He's one of the few backs in 2017 that would send social media into a frenzy with highlights only believed when seen.
Ryan James | He's the captain that does most of his leading by setting the example. His consistency was what Gold Coast desperately needed all season. Even though James didn't back up the try scoring record he equalled for a forward last season, James was carrying injuries through matches and undoubtedly gave everything he had all year.
Jarryd Hayne | There was a lot of hype to fulfil in 2017 and Hayne didn't get close to delivering. The warning signs of getting a sub-par Hayne began early in preseason when strong rumours circulated about he not completing the workload asked of him. His State of Origin selections were based on what he can do as opposed to the form he was showing for the Titans. At fullback for Gold Coast Hayne looked unfit and uninspired to play his best football. Playing him at centre made no difference. Hayne deciding to exercise his $1.2 million player option for 2018 until the last possible day doesn't show passion for sticking with the Titans.
Kane Elgey | Unfortunately for Elgey he hasn't shown the quality football from his rookie season in 2015. The ACL injury that kept the five-eighth out of all football in 2016 has proven to be a major hurdle that's yet to be completely behind him. He has one season left on his contract and time is running out for Gold Coast to pair a quality half with Taylor.
The Titans' U20s team finished 11th on the ladder to wrap up their stint in the NYC Holden Cup.
The Burleigh Bears failed to make the QRL Intrust Super Cup finals this year to defend their 2016 title. Last year Gold Coast added the Central Queensland Capras as a feeder club on a two-year deal, but the Capras in September initiated a release from the deal. Central Queensland claimed the wooden spoon this year. The Tweed Heads Seagulls played slightly better than the Capras, finishing 13th and only above the Capras.
There is no clear future for the Titans yet. They don't have a head coach (or coaches if the Walker brothers are still contenders) and the NRL is trying to sell the franchise. Mal Meninga publicly offering himself as someone to work for Gold Coast in a ‘Phil Gould-type' role has to get the Titans focused on signing him. Ash Taylor, their most important young player, is yet to sign a contract extension and rival clubs can start pitching to him from November. So far Brenton Lawrence and Jai Arrow are the only new player signings. Chris McQueen and Leivaha Pulu have left the club. Can't see this franchise as a favourite to make the top eight in 2018, my prediction is they finish 12th.