Record: 11 Wins, 12 Losses, 1 Draw
Ladder Position: 8th
Player of the Year: Ryan James
So much has already been said about the story of the Gold Coast Titans 2016 season, however the remarkable accomplishments that the Titans achieved against all odds are worth revisiting.
The controversial departure of James Roberts and the season-ending injury to gun halfback Kane Elgey in the pre-season had the Titans instilled as the shortest priced favourites for the wooden spoon in NRL history, especially after the Daly Cherry-Evans backflip left the Titans without any big name talents. The recruitment of other teams “trash” such as Tyrone Roberts, Chris McQueen and Zeb Taia had the Titans squad looking more like a joke than a threat, while no one could have predicted how much composure rookie halfback Ashley Taylor would show in his first season in the NRL.
Everything that was supposed to go against the Titans ended up working in their favour, as the brilliant coaching of Neil Henry had every single Titans player performing far above their expectations.
Furthermore, the courageous decision by Henry and the Titans board to withhold from spending their $1 million+ salary cap funds on players available during the pre-season turned out to be an absolute masterstroke, as the Titans were able to make three top notch signings mid-season in Nathan Peats, Konrad Hurrell and lastly the biggest signing in Gold Coast history, Jarryd Hayne.
The season culminated with the Titans making the finals for the first time since 2010, and with a full pre-season under their new recruits belts, as well as the return of Elgey, the future is looking more bright than ever before for the Gold Coast Titans.
Mid season Signing Spree
After starting the season with barely any marquee players on board and plenty of room left in the salary cap, the Titans mid season recruitment drive was arguably the greatest in NRL history. Following the fallout of the Eels salary cap drama, the Titans were the only club with the available funds to pick up dynamic hooker Nathan Peats, who is regarded by most as the next in line for the Blues number 9 jersey.
Just weeks later, the Titans were able to sign barnstorming centre Konrad Hurrell, who requested a release from the Warriors after being forced to sit on the sideline due to a falling out with coach Andrew McFadden. Hurrell quickly displayed the damaging runs that makes him one of the most lethal ball carriers in the competition, and he has more than filled the void of a dynamic centre that the Titans lost with the departure of James Roberts.
Finally, the signing of Jarryd Hayne in August gave the Titans arguably the biggest superstar in Rugby League as the face of their brand. The two time Dally M award winner was far from reaching his top form during his six games for the Titans as he struggled with match fitness and gelling with a new side, however his value off the field was immediately on display when Hayne made his Titans debut in front of 25,000 fans, providing the Titans with their biggest home crowd in 7 years.
The value of Hayne’s signing with the Titans can not be truly measured until he takes the field with a full NRL pre-season in 2017, however the attraction and revenue that he has brought to the Titans brand has already justified his $1.2 million a year price tag.
Ending the Streak
Eventual premiers the Cronulla Sharks had been on an absolute rampage throughout the 2016 season, disposing of every team in their path since Round 3 on their way to a 15-game winning streak.
Heading into Round 21 against a Titans side who were missing Nathan Peats and all other notable hooker replacements, most experts were tipping the Sharks to extend their streak to 16 wins, however the Titans turned up to play in front of an unusually large Monday night home crowd of 14,000 people.
The Sharks were looking strong from the get-go as they shot out to a 12-0 lead, however the Titans showed great resilience to fight back despite having David Mead in the sin-bin for 10 minutes, shooting out to an 18-12 lead in the second half. An Andrew Fifita try levelled the scores in the 70th minute, and both teams were unable to score a point in a frantic 10 minute period of extra time which saw several narrowly missed field goal attempts.
Although they didn’t claim victory, the Titans technically put an end to the Sharks incredible winning streak, and more importantly they showed that they can match it with the top teams in the competition.
Top 8 Finish
The cherry on top of all of 2016’s positive outcomes for the Titans was undoubtedly the club securing their first finals berth in 6 years, which was even more satisfying for fans as not even the most die-hard Titans supporters could have predicted a finals finish in 2016.
The club emerged from the ashes of previous failed seasons by providing the Gold Coast with a team that all supporters can be proud of, as this group of rejects and rookies showed tremendous courage to put up a valiant fight in almost every game this season. Finishing in 8th place resulted in the city getting behind the Titans, and although their season ended in Week 1 of the finals at the hands of the Broncos, fans of all clubs showed their support for the club as the match featured what has been labeled as one of the worst refereeing performances of all time.
The Titans season may have ended with a loss, but the entirety of 2016 was undoubtedly a win for the Gold Coast side.
2017 Gains and Losses
Gains: Jarrod Wallace (Broncos), Dan Sarginson (Wigan)
Losses: Nene MacDonald (Dragons), David Mead (Broncos), Greg Bird (Catalans), Cameron Cullen (Manly), Nathan Friend (Retired), Josh Hoffman (Eels), Luke Douglas (St Helens)