Last season placing: 14th
The Titans showed great fortitude and courage in the back end of 2015 to avoid the wooden spoon, despite a season from hell that was littered with off field dramas, and injuries to key players. Despite heavily falling 42-12 against the eventual premiers, the North Queensland Cowboys, in Round 26, Titans fans can find comfort in the fact that they won their final 3 home games, including a 28-26 victory in Round 25 against the Dragons, who would go on to play in the 2015 finals series.
The two shining lights of 2015 for the Titans was the stunning emergence of rookie halfback Kane Elgey, and the blistering form of Dally M Centre of the year James Roberts. However, in typical Titans fashion, their two brightest hopes will be nowhere to be seen in season 2016. Roberts was the center of an embarrassing contract dispute during the off-season that resulted in him departing to the Broncos, while Elgey shockingly tore his ACL in the first training session of 2016, ruling the future superstar out for the entire season. The Titans roster had already been weakened for 2016 with the departure of Aidan Sezer, Nate Myles, and Dave Taylor, and the loss of arguably their two best players has them now sitting as firm favorites for the wooden spoon.
With the recent news of the North Sydney Bears making an attempt to buy and overtake the Titans brand to go with their already drama filled off-season, Titans fans could be understood for dreading the season ahead, however their form on the field through the pre-season has been full of positive signs. They shocked the entire competition to advance to the semi-final stage of the Auckland Nines, before drawing 20-20 with the Eels in their first trial game, and falling short by just 2 points to an almost full strength Rabbitohs outfit. They may have one of the weakest squads in the competition, but the Titans have shown that they won’t go down without a fight in 2016.
Relatively unknown to all except the most diehard NRL fans following his debut in 2015, front-rower Agnatius Paasi put the entire competition on notice with his barnstorming performances at the Auckland Nines, which almost lead his team to the finals, and earned him a spot in the Team of the Tournament. Paasi showed incredible speed, footwork, and offloading ability to go with his powerful frame. He even pulled off several successful kicks, showing that he has the capability to be the x-factor player that the Titans forward pack has been lacking.
Rocks and diamonds is the best way to describe the career of former Knights halfback Tyrone Roberts, as he can often either be the best or worst player on the field. The Titans will be praying that a change of scenery will allow him to consistently deliver the brilliance that he has shown on odd occasions, as he will be the Titans most experienced playmaker for the season. Roberts guidance and form will be imperative to the development of young half Ashley Taylor, who has been thrust into the starting role following the loss of Elgey, with only 30 minutes of first grade experience to his name.
Despite being arguably the Titans best forward, representative star Greg Bird’s past few seasons have been full of controversy both on and off the field, and his place in the team has mainly been detrimental to the club. 2016 is the year that Bird needs to finally step up and assert himself as an on-field leader for an inexperienced Titans side, and show that the club has been right to stick by him.
Likely Round 1 Lineup:
William Zillman, Anthony Don, Nathan Davis, Josh Hoffman, David Mead, Ashley Taylor, Tyrone Roberts, Ryan James, Nathan Friend, David Shillington, Zeb Taia, Chris McQueen, Greg Bird, Agnatius Paasi, Eddy Pettybourne, Leivaha Pulu, Daniel Mortimer
Story of 2016:
The Giant Slayers: The heavily doubted Titans bravely shock several top eight teams to earn upset victories, and avoid a predicted place in the bottom four of the ladder.
Ladder: To miss the 8
Predicted Top Tryscorer: David Mead
Predicted Top Pointscorer: Tyrone Roberts
Predicted Player of the Year: Chris McQueen