Rookie NRL coach Garth Brennan’s pledge that his Gold Coast team are going to be the Telstra Premiership’s entertainers faces its first test against the Canberra Raiders on Sunday.
In his last media conference before the last match of the opening round, Brennan reiterated his intention of encouraging his side ”to play some football” and urged young halves Ash Taylor and Kane Elgey to ”play what they see”.
If he has the cattle to pull off his intentions it could be a breath of fresh air in the NRL emanating from one of three new head coaches entering the firing line this weekend – Brennan, South Sydney’s Anthony Seibold and Canterbury’s Dean Pay.
How his pack, without Jarrod Wallace, can gain some momentum with the ball and how they handle the monster forwards of the Raiders in defence, will give the first indication of what the Titans are capable of.
But Brennan was enthusiastically articulating on Friday how he wanted his side to use big men Ryan James and Kevin Proctor as constant threats on the edges.
It is a style he believes will provide Taylor and Elgey with an open invitation to defy modern convention of each sticking to one side of the ruck and instead encourage them to drift and take the line on.
Replying to the fact that Taylor topped the NRL’s try-assists from kicks last season, and an apparent reliance on his boot, Brennan declared he wanted his halves to lead the way with enterprise.
”I’m not going to discourage Ash from what he does well, but I want him to run the ball more and I have spoken to him at length in the pre-season about that,” Brennan said.
”He has a fantastic running game, as has Kane Elgey, and when your halves run the football they’re a threat.
”I want to see my ball-players take the line on but I’m certainly not going to stop Ash scoring tries from kicks.
”He needs to run the ball more and take more control, as does Kane. Ash can’t do it all himself.
”They have been fantastic in the pre-season and I am really excited to see how they can put things together when the competition starts.”
Brennan added he wanted the pair to swap sides and ”float around the field”
”I think that’s an entertaining style of football when the fans see the halves throw the ball around and play some entertaining football,” he said.
”I’m not going to lock them into that structured football when they’re locked into particular edges and one’s got to do this and one’s got to do that.
”They are both fantastic players and both great individuals and I want to let them have the luxury to play whatever they see.”
Brennan said that despite a lack of experience in the middle with Wallace absent for the first two rounds with suspension and Jack Stockwell unavailable with a shoulder injury, he will start James on the left edge because it fits the expansive style he wants his side to play.
”He brings a real threat on the edge and the style of football I want to play this year involves our back-rowers having a real influence,” Brennan said.
”We have two real big bodies there in Kevin Proctor and Ryan James on the edge which is always going to trouble some teams. But don’t be surprised to see Ryan James play in the middle at some stage [on Sunday].
”The good thing about Ryan is that he has a really big motor, so he can handle the switch between back-row and middle throughout the game and that means he might have to go for 80 minutes without being replaced, which is a real bonus to have quality players on there for a long period.”
Brennan would not confirm his starting 17 before the Titans’ captain’s run tomorrow but has no serious injury concerns.