Julian Vella previews the early kick-off game on Friday night between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Gold Coast Titans. This is what we have to look forward to.
St George Illawarra Dragons
The Dragons are currently enjoying some respite from the heavy media attention and criticism from their fans, as they are on a two-game winning streak which has kept their slim finals hopes alive. The Saints will know if their local rivals the Sharks lose their match this weekend, they could be sitting just two points outside the finals placings; this of course is pending on them winning this tricky match.
Gold Coast Titans
Whilst the Dragons have won back-to-back games, it’s a different story for the Gold Coast; the Titans have lost their last two starts against the Sharks and the Canberra Raiders. Justin Holbrook’s side have definitely improved a lot this season, and have been competitive in these matches, but they are still struggling to put together a full 80-minute performance.
St George Illawarra Dragons
New coach Dean Young got off to a winning start last week, so naturally he has tried to keep the winning formula for this week, but such has been season 2020 that injury and suspension has forced him to make a couple of changes to his interchange. NSW Origin prop Paul Vaughan has been suspended for a crusher tackle and will miss two weeks, while the luckless Korbin Sims has again found himself a new injury: this time he has strained his calf.
1. Matthew Dufty 2. Jordan Pereira 3. Euan Aitken 4. Zac Lomax 5. Mikaele Ravalawa 6. Corey Norman 7. Adam Clune 8. Blake Lawrie 9. Ben Hunt 10. Josh Kerr 11. Tyson Frizell 12. Jacob Host 13. Cameron McInnes (c) 14. Kaide Ellis 15. Trent Merrin 16. Jackson Ford 17. Billy Brittain 18. Eddie Blacker 19. Tristan Sailor 20. Jayden Sullivan 21. Max Feagai.
Gold Coast Titans
Holbrook has made a host of changes to his side that went down to the Raiders: star five-eighth Ash Taylor returns after missing last week, whilst Mitch Rein and Tyrone Peachey have both been promoted to the starting lineup. The Titans will miss forward Moeiaki Fotuaika, who has been suspended; he joins Jai Arrow and captain Kevin Proctor on the sidelines, which has left the Titans’ pack looking a bit light-on in experience.
1. Alexander Brimson 2. Corey Thompson 3. Brian Kelly 4. Young Tonumaipea 5. Phillip Sami 6. Ashley Taylor 7. Jamal Fogarty (c) 8. Jarrod Wallace 9. Mitch Rein 10. Jaimin Jolliffe 11. Sam Stone 12. Beau Fermor 13. Tyrone Peachey 14. Erin Clark 15. Sam Lisone 16. Keegan Hipgrave 17. Jai Whitbread 18. Tanah Boyd 19. Anthony Don 20. Treymain Spry 21. Darius Farmer.
The Gold Coast have lost their last five meetings against the Dragons, dating back to 2017: their last victory over the Red V was also in 2017. On that day it was an Anthony Don hat-trick that got the Titans home; with Don named on an extended bench, might there be a late change to bring the Titans’ greatest ever try-scorer into the match?
BATTLE TO WATCH
Matt Dufty vs AJ Brimson
Although this might not be the battle that decides the outcome of this match, it is undoubtedly the most exciting match-up within it. Both players will want to forget the start to their respective seasons, as Brimson missed the entire first half of the year due to a troublesome back issue, whilst Dufty started the season on the outer at St George Illawarra.
There were whispers around the gossip pagers that Dufty had the chance to join the Titans earlier this season; it’s alleged that then-coach Paul McGregor said to Dufty that, “He could go and play 20 games for the Titans or he could stay and fight for his place at Saints”. Whether this is true or not, Dufty certainly did stay and fight for his place, and is now arguably the Dragons’ go-to guy in attack.
If Dufty had decided to make the switch to the Gold Coast, he would now be locked in a battle for the No.1 jersey with Brimson. Once touted the “best backyard footy player around” by Queensland State of Origin coach Kevin Walters, Brimson has fallen off the radar due to his injury issues, but since his return he has again shown what a talented player he is, and there is no doubt now the Titans’ plans for the future revolve around AJ at fullback.
The Titans are clearly improving and will likely be an even better side next season; the improvement around the structure of the side’s attack is clear to see and the additions of some big name forwards will only enhance this improvement. But at this stage the Titans are missing too many bodies, and without anything really to play for, this match is really setup for a Dragons win. If the joint venture side doesn’t win this Friday, they can kiss goodbye their slim finals chances.
Date: Friday, August 28th.
Venue: Netsrata Jubilee Stadium, Kogarah.
Kick-off: 6:00pm AEST.