On Sunday afternoon, Cbus Super Stadium will feature two teams who have been heavily tipped to feature in the bottom four of the NRL ladder, however the Round 1 clash between the Gold Coast Titans and Newcastle Knights should display some fast flowing, back and forth footy. The Knights have set an NRL record by naming 5 debutants for the game in Jaelen Feeney, Pat Mata’utia, David Bhana. Daniel and Jacob Saifiti, who also become the first twins to debut together in the history of the NRL, will join the trio. State of Origin representative Trent Hodkinson will also make his first appearance for Newcastle. The Titans have named 7 new recruits for the clash, which includes their starting second-row, Chris McQueen and Zeb Taia, and halves pairing, Ashley Taylor and Tyrone Roberts.
LAST TIME OUT
The Titans showed promising signs to begin 2016, as they came within one game of the finals of the Auckland Nines series. They then went on to draw 20-20 in a trial match with Paramatta, and narrowly fell by 2 points to an almost full strength Rabbitohs outfit.
The Knights put up a solid display in the Auckland Nines, progressing to the quarterfinals before being eliminated by the eventual tournament winners, the Eels. There performance in a trial match against Canberra was worrying, as they were trailing 34-6 at half time, before making a comeback in the second half against a second-string Raiders team to lose the game 34-28.
Although their squad has been labelled the weakest in the NRL, there is no denying that the Titans forward park has the potential to shock teams in 2016. Chris McQueen and Zeb Taia will provide a combination of explosiveness and power on the edges, while Greg Bird and Agnatius Paasi can lay the platform through the middle of the field.
The experience of the Titans forwards will combat a raw Knights pack that will feature three debutants in the Saifiti brothers and Bhana, however the rookies will have the guidance of veterans Jeremy Smith and Kade Snowden. The battle through the middle could very well determine the winner of this contest.
With so many new players featuring in both of these lowly rated sides, the game could struggle for momentum as the players take time to adjust to their combinations. Former Knights halfback Tyrone Roberts will be desperate to perform well against his former team, in his first game as the senior playmaker for the Gold Coast side.
Although the Knights have a more potent backline, the lack of experience could prove costly for them, especially with debutants in the fullback and centre position. The Titans forward pack should be strong enough to lay the platform for a Gold Coast win at home.
Titans by 10
Titans: 1 Will Zillman (c) 2 Anthony Don 3 Josh Hoffman 4 Nathan Davis 5 David Mead 6 Tyrone Roberts 7 Ashley Taylor 8 David Shillington 9 Nathan Friend (c) 10 Agnatius Paasi 11 Zeb Taia 12 Chris McQueen 13 Greg Bird. Interchange: 14 Eddy Pettybourne 15 Ryan James 16 Leivaha Pulu 17 Daniel Mortimer 18 Lachlan Burr 19 Leva Li.
Knights: 1 Jaelen Feeney 2 Chanel Mata’utia 3 Dane Gagai 4 Pat Mata’utia 5 Akuila Uate 6 Jarrod Mullen 7 Trent Hodkinson 8 Kade Snowden 9 Tyler Randell 10 Sam Mataora 11 Jacob Safiti 12 Robbie Rochow 13 Jeremy Smith. Interchange: 14 David Bhana 15 Korbin Sims 16 Lachlan Fitzgibbon 17 Pauli Pauli 18 Daniel Saifiti 19 Nathan Ross
Referees: Henry Perenara, Chris James