The Gold Coast Titans achieved a great deal more than anybody could have expected in 2016. Considered wooden spoon favourites alongside the Knights, the Titans mounted an unlikely charge to the finals, picking up some handy recruits like Konrad Hurrell and Jarryd Hayne along the way. The Roosters on the other hand were extremely disappointing. Minor premiers for three consecutive years, the Chooks endured a horrid injury toll that sent them plummeting down the ladder.

All that is now ancient history as both teams suit up for their Round 1 clash at Robina Stadium.

LAST TIME OUT

The Titans pre-season has been a disruptive time with coach Neil Henry even stating his team may be underdone. There have been a large number of injury concerns with star fullback Jarryd Hayne struggling with a knee injury, making him no certainty for Round 1. Sarginson and Hurrell have also had knee complaints and Nathan Peats suffered a shoulder injury in a trial match, ruling him out for 6-8 weeks.

In more positive news, Kane Elgey has performed well in his comeback from a year long lay-off for an ACL injury. Tyrone Roberts has become accustomed to his new utility role, starting at fullback in a trial and will now deputise for Peats as starting Hooker.

The Roosters got their year off to a great start by winning the Auckland 9’s. Whilst footy fans will argue its merits as an exhibition tournament, the Roosters playing group will take a great deal of confidence out of it for the season ahead. Mitchell Pearce has yet to play a game for the year which means he come into the season without any time on the field to shake off rust but considering what happened last year to him and the rest of his team, they’ll certainly take a potentially underdone halfback as their worst pre-season news.

KEY BATTLE

The forward packs. The Roosters pack is tried and true with players like Ryan Matterson a year older and wiser for the harsh season endured in 2016. They’ll be settled and full of energy as they take to the field looking to make an early statement of their intentions to become a force to be reckoned with once again.

It’ll be up to the Titans new look forward rotation to stop them from winning the middle battle. New recruits like Jarrod Wallace and Kevin Proctor will be keen to impress in their first NRL game in Titans colours while Super League recruit Joe Greenwood looms as an intriguing option off the bench. The performance of the new recruits will play a key part in deciding the outcome of the game.

PREDICTION

This was a tough match to call a few weeks ago. However with the injury disruptions and the relative stability of the Roosters pre-seasn coupled with their Nines success, the result seems a little clearer to call now.

The Titans have beefed up their forward pack with their new additions but the loss of Nathan Peats stands to have a adverse effect on the Titans rhythm in attack and defence. For the Roosters, new backline members in Keary and Gordon may mean their set plays and combinations might not come off too smoothly. However all players will be feeling a bit of rust from not having played NRL in a while and the opening 20 minutes should be tightly contested.

Overall I feel the loss of Peats is going to have the Titans feeling unsettled and the Roosters will be looking to come out firing to begin the year on a positive note. Roosters by 10+

SQUADS

Gold Coast Titans v Sydney Roosters at Cbus Super Stadium, 9pm (AEDT) Saturday

Titans: 1. Jarryd Hayne 2. Anthony Don 3. Dan Sarginson 4. Konrad Hurrell 5. William Zillman 6. Kane Elgey 7. Ashley Taylor 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Tyrone Roberts 10. Ryan James 11. Kevin Proctor 12. Chris McQueen 13. Leivaha Pulu 14. Karl Lawton 15. Nathaniel Peteru 16. Agnatius Paasi 17. Joe Greenwood 18. Paterika Vaivai 19. Max King 20. Morgan Boyle 21. Tyrone Roberts-Davis

Roosters: 1. Michael Gordon 2. Shaun Kenny-Dowall 3. Blake Ferguson 4. Latrell Mitchell 5. Daniel Tupou 6. Luke Keary 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Dylan Napa 11. Boyd Cordner 12. Mitchell Aubusson 13. Aidan Guerra 14. Isaac Liu 15. Kane Evans 16. Ryan Matterson 17. Connor Watson 18. Paul Carter 19. Joseph Manu 20. Dale Copley 21. Zane Tetevano