Holbrook sees ‘good signs’ in Ash rejuvenation project
THE only way is up for the Titans this year after falling to their worst win-loss record in club history in 2019.
The turbulent season saw their head coach, Garth Brennan, given the boot, the club's million-dollar man Ash Taylor forced to take some time out and the wooden spoon secured.
Gold Coast have turned to former St Helens mentor - and Super League premiership-winning coach Justin Holbrook to take the reins this year to lead the club to some success.
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But he's not adding any extra outside noise to the club's 2020 prediction, preferring to instead play it more relaxed.
"I've been avoiding that exact question," Holbrook said when asked what the pass mark for the Titans is this year.
"For us as a group, every team has had a good pre-season and we're no different.
"I don't want to come out and make a statement right away.
"If I say eighth's all right, and then we do better, the players then think eighth is all right.
"If I say we make top four, and we don't, then everyone's going to think what's that bloke talking about."
"As a team and as a club, we want to be at our best every single week."
He has also recruited strongly over the pre-season, securing the signature of former Warriors prop Sam Lisone, young playmaker Erin Clark and barnstorming outside back Greg Leleisiuao.
The head coach said he was hoping to get the best out of his players for the upcoming season.
"I'm confident in the playing group," he said.
"Every side has good players and we've got plenty of those.
"It's my job to get the best out of them and I'm looking forward to it."
THE TITANS ROSTER
Ins: Sam Lisone (Warriors), Beau Fermor (Knights), Greg Leleisiuao (Eels), Jonus Pearson (Dragons), Darius Farmer (upgrade), Erin Clark
Outs: Michael Gordon (retired), Will Matthews (retired), Leilani Latu (Super League), Brenko Lee (Storm), Ryley Jacks (Storm), Jesse Arthars (Broncos), Jack Stockwell (unsigned)
Off-contract: Dale Copley, Anthony Don, Keegan Hipgrave, Ryan James, Sam Lisone, Nathan Peats, Kevin Proctor, Tyrone Roberts, Sam Stone
James has urged the club not to give up hope on the 28-year-old as he fights back from his third knee reconstruction.
Proctor has been named to captain the side this year in place of the injured James while Roberts was one of the club's best players in a dismal 2019 season.
THE BURNING QUESTION
Is Justin Holbrook the answer to the Titans woes?
Holbrook appears to be the man to drag the Gold Coast out of the cellar of the NRL.
The Titans finished last year as the wooden spooners following a roller-coaster season marred by drama off the footy field.
But the players appear to have a spring in their step this year with Holbrook in charge.
The 44-year-old has coached the likes of Ash Taylor, Brian Kelly, Jai Arrow and Sam Stone before when he was in charge of the Junior Kangaroos team from 2015 to 2017, so he has already got a rapport with some of the core members of the playing group.
His first head coaching gig - as St Helens mentor - saw him take out the English Super League title last year.
He revealed recently his plans to revamp the Titans in 2020.
"The clubs at the top are there for a reason - because they work the hardest," Holbrook said.
"They don't outplay you - they outwork you. That's what we've got to strive for."
IT'S A BIG YEAR FOR
The 24-year-old was forced to take some time out of the game last year to deal with personal issues.
He was then pitchforked back into the side for the Titans' 58-6 walloping to the Roosters - a move that was heavily criticised by many commentators.
However, the young halfback looks to be enjoying his footy again and Holbrook has backed him to have a big season in 2020.
"Ash is going fantastic," Holbrook said.
"I had a quick chat to him on day one and just said to him that I want to help him.
"Everyone in rugby league wants their players playing the best.
"I said I want to help you but you've also got to help yourself, and he's done that every day. Every day at training, he's trained well and he's enjoying coming to training.
"We need him to play well and he needs to play well for himself. I'm expecting a big season because there's some good signs about him."
The former Test prop has shed 7kg from his hulking frame in a bid to get back to his barnstorming best this year.
Boyd last year struggled for form in his 13 games and was relegated to the bench on seven occasions before injury ruled him out for the year after round 17.
He admitted he didn't have the best year in 2019 and has vowed to bounce back to form in 2020.
"This year I'm feeling a lot fitter, faster and stronger," he said.
"I looked after myself. Being in rehab I knew I had to be careful, I knew I'd get really heavy. I did a bit more training when I was back home and that sort of thing."
THE BEST PLAYER YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF
He made a name for himself in the NSW Cup last season, topping almost every attacking statistic.
Most post contact metres (1535), most tackle breaks (196) and most run metres (4513) are just a few of his achievements for the former Wentworthville centre in his 2019 year.
The 22-year-old has had massive wraps for his try-scoring ability (12 tries last year) and will be a handy asset for Holbrook to use in the outside backs.
Stats that matter: The Titans were, simply put, woeful in a season they'd rather forget.
They finished the season in last place with their worst win-loss record in club history.
With just 63 tries, it was their lowest number of four-pointers ever, and with 370 points scored, it was their second fewest amount of points in a season.
Their defence was equally as bad - recording their second most tries conceded in a season (112) and their most points conceded ever (651).
They also only manage to win two games at their home ground at Cbus Super Stadium.