Titans boys looking good
By GEOFF ROUNDS & DANIEL PACE
GOLD Coast Titans coach John Cartwright likened the first official day of pre-season training for the NRL club yesterday to a new year at school.
"It's a bit like being back at school for the first time, today," Cartwright said from the team's two-day training base at Casuarina.
"Today's just been about testing and seeing how they go.
"Just in looks, a lot of them haven't looked like they've had too good a time during the break." Cartwright and Titans' fitness guru Billy Johnstone have plotted a solid training regime as they prepare for their second season in the NRL competition. "We'll be training from today, nine times a week over six days," Cartwright said.
"From what I've seen today, there was a lot to like. Some of them moved very well.
"A lot of them are looking in good nick and have maintained some of their fitness. "With all that in mind, we probably don't have to improve a hell of a lot to go a bit further in the competition."
The Titans were on the verge of securing a finals berth in their inaugural season before a shocking run of injuries wrecked their hopes and they faded to finish 12th.
The NRL kicks off the game's centenary season on March 14, with the Titans in their first premiership game at the new Skilled Park against the Cowboys on March 17.
"The Robina and Tweed areas are both growing areas. For us, there's a great player and supporter base there, and we'll look to get great support there again and hopefully become their favourite club in 2008 to follow." Titans fans on the Tweed have extra reason to be excited in 2008, with star Tweed Heads Seagulls player Shannon Walker expected to debut early in the season.
"He's been in great form in the Queensland Cup for the Seagulls and I'd expect he'll play a role with us next year," Cartwright said.
With Walker waiting in the wings, Cartwright said he would not even entertain the idea of recruiting Bulldogs big-man Willie Mason, who has had a falling out with the Canterbury-based club. "I don't know how anyone could fit him in under the cap at this time of year," Cartwright said.
"It's a big expense, he's obviously a great player, but we're happy with our back half."
"Really though, from our point of view, we'll look at areas where we were strong and areas where we weren't as strong.
"From there we should have a good side on the paddock come March next year."
Another new recruit, Matthew Cross, has declared the Titans can make the top four if they enjoy a good run with injuries.
The former Penrith prop was one of several new faces at training. The Titans have also signed former Parramatta forward Aaron Cannings, wingers Ben Jeffrey and Brenton Bowen and ex-Bulldogs hooker Billy Ngawini to add size and speed to their player list.
"This season we've got more depth in the forwards in particular, so if we have injuries I know we'll still be able to perform," he said.
Wife Jodie is expecting their first child in two weeks.
"If we do the same as what we did this year, and maybe win some of those games we just lost and stay injury-free, then I really do think we can make the top four."