Gold Coast have beaten Brisbane twice in a season for the first time, as the balance of power between the south-east Queensland sides tips to towards the rising Titans under impressive first-season coach Justin Holbrook.
The bad news for Broncos fans is that Gold Coast are only going to be better next season, with David Fifita headlining a strong recruiting class that could relegate Brisbane to the strange position of underdog in the regional race for talent and NRL success.
The Titans made it back-to-back wins over the Broncos with a 18-6 victory at CBUS Super Stadium, with five-eighth Ash Taylor continuing to flourish under Holbrook’s tutelage and fullback AJ Brimson almost certainly putting himself in the Queensland Origin conversation as a Maroons utility prospect.
Brisbane had two tries disallowed with dropped balls over the line but both of those could be put down to some stubborn and desperate Titans defence. This is not a false dawn; the signs of life are real in a region that has been Australia’s great sporting mortuary.
« I’m proud now we’ve won that game, » Holbrook said. « To be part of the first Titans side to win twice in a season over the Broncos, really happy with that. »
The Titans are miles from being a finished product and just as far from playing finals football in 2020, although they are far closer than the Broncos, who are an extremely average team at the moment and now own a club-record nine-game losing streak.
Local media in Brisbane have a habit of calling every Broncos player a ‘star’ no matter their ability or worth to the set-up, but only a few can claim to be in that category at the moment. One is centre Kotoni Staggs, who was strong in a beaten side and will continue to hover on Brad Fittler’s NSW radar.
With a scarcity of talent available on the player market in the off-season, Brisbane are scouring the shelves for bargains while the Titans have some serious inbound firepower. Fifita leads that charge; he was decent enough on Saturday night but will come to life in a side that knows how to run some structure and shape to make the most of his power running game.
Gold Coast will also bolster their middle with Herman Ese’ese and boom Melbourne Storm forward Tino Fa’asuamaleaui stands to add some serious punch in the trenches. That will only add to the growth of Taylor and halfback Jamal Fogarty, both of whom have been successful projects for Holbrook and helped guide the club to a hat-trick of victories.
The sad truth for Anthony Seibold is the Broncos have looked more solid since his departure. Peter Gentle has taken everything back to basics, to some good effect. But the reality is Brisbane are a limited outfit facing a significant and potentially lengthy rebuild under their new coach.
Gentle has been a refreshing realist after matches and said while he was happy with some defensive improvements, the attack was based off individual plays and needs to rapidly evolve.
« With the ball, we tend to be a little bit individual based, it would be fair to say, » Gentle said. « The young blokes, they’re trying hard. They are going to make errors. We were a little bit guilty of chasing the scoreboard. »
The new appointment will be made within weeks and is down to Kevin Walters and ex-Cowboys coach Paul Green, whose hard edge and NRL experience may appeal more to the Red Hill powerbrokers despite a concerted push for Walters from a loud and influential group of Old Boys.
After the match, Fogarty said his rise from Gold Coast youth worker to Titans captain and halfback was « weird but awesome ». The same could be said for the Titans-Broncos relationship in the region, once dominated completely from Brisbane but now being flipped on its head.
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