A year of unknowns for the Gold Coast Titans yielded a top eight finish but only just.
2021 Club RecordEmbed from Getty Images
Competition Points: 22
2021 Player AchievementsEmbed from Getty Images
Most Tries: David Fifita (17)
Most Points: Jamal Fogarty (156)
The 2021 season carried high expectations for a Gold Coast Titans side that welcomed big money signings in David Fifita and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui. Many were expecting the Titans to comfortably find themselves in the top eight, however they would not seal their finals berth until the final day of the season. They needed to win their final match against the New Zealand Warriors by 12 points or more to sneak into eighth position. They proceeded to turn on an attacking masterclass to run out 44-0 winners. The Titans had a number of opportunities prior to the final day to secure their berth, but suffering three consecutive defeats between rounds 22 and 24 leaving the position up for grabs. The boys from the Coast were so close to making it to week two of the finals, but were ultimately beaten 25-24 by the Sydney Roosters. Some would call it a successful season, others would say they underachieved, I’ll leave that one for you to decide.
Arguably the biggest talking point during the season was whether Fifita was worth the price tag and why coach Justin Holbrook wasn’t utilizing the big man for the full 80? What made it even more contentious was the fact that Fifita was playing a starring role in the early rounds of the season, breaking tackles and scoring tries for fun. The tactics – which were similar to the ones used for fellow million dollar man Jason Taumalolo – raised eyebrows as the big fella sat on the pine to begin almost half of the games this season. Did the tactics work? It’s hard to be definitive either way, as some games Fifita came on and looked lost, whereas on other occasions it was a masterstroke as he would come on and continue to dominate the way he had been early in the season. The approach will be interesting in 2022, as the club welcomes Isaac Liu from the Roosters to bolster an already dominant forward pack: does that take even more minutes away from him?
Looking outside of Fifita for a star performer is a stretch considering how the team performed over the entirety of the season, so instead I will name a number of players who punched above their weight. One that may have gone unnoticed was the performances of Beau Fermor. The rangy back rower was the one that kept Fifita out of the starting line-up as he continued to show up in both defence and attack. He will be one to keep an eye on in the forward pack in 2022. Erin Clark continued to improve throughout the season and, by the end if it, had removed his deputy and now Parramatta-bound Mitch Rein from the side altogether. With the additions of Paul Turner (Warriors), Aaron Booth (Storm) and Will Smith (Eels), there will be no shortage of competition for the two dummy half positions. Last but not least, the ever-reliable Corey Thompson: his performances at the beginning of the year had him in the conversations for a wing position for the Queensland Maroons. He then missed a number of months due to injury but returned with the same hunger and determination, ultimately being a part of a late season push. If Patrick Herbert had passed the ball in the dying seconds, Thompson is a Titans hero…
The decision not to re-sign Ash Taylor and grant Jamal Fogarty a release from his contract to join the Canberra Raiders shows that the club have ideas of what they are looking for moving forward. The emergence of Toby Sexton in the back half of the season was a welcome one for Holbrook who has assured the youngster that the #7 jersey will be his to lose in 2022. The bigger question posed is who plays alongside him, with a number of pundits suggesting that fullback Alexander Brimson shifts to the five-eighth role to help young star Jayden Campbell retain his spot in the 17. The emergence of the son of a gun Jayden had many likening his performances to those of his father Preston in the same jersey a number of years ago. The switch shapes as a potential game changer, but if Brimson fails to fire in the #6 jersey (like Kalyn Ponga did in his stint in the jersey at the Knights), it could become a long season for Gold Coast fans. The re-signing of Tanah Boyd will also put pressure on Brimson to hold his position in the starting line-up, given how well Campbell closed out the season.
NothingButLeague Player of the Season – David FifitaEmbed from Getty Images
Run Metres: 2,593
Line Breaks: 22
Tackle Bursts: 156