Gold Coast Titans coach John Cartwright.
Gold Coast Titans coach John Cartwright.

Guessing games

GOLD Coast Titans coach John Cartwright has kept Parramatta guessing over his final line-up for Friday night's NRL semi-final in Sydney, despite naming a side yesterday.

William Zillman - back from a four-match ban for biting - has been named on an extended bench with Preston Campbell at fullback and injury concern Mat Rogers (concussion) at pivot.

However, Cartwright has refused to rule out slotting Zillman into fullback, Campbell into pivot and Rogers into the centres for the must-win game.

“We will train with all options then wake up Friday morning then make up our minds,” Cartwright said on the Gold Coast yesterday.

Zillman slots into the squad at the expense of utility Josh Graham, who has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a fractured foot.

“Josh needs a pin in place. He only got on for the last five minutes but it has ended his season - there goes another utility,” Cartwright said.

“But we've got Zilly back and only need three forwards on the bench most times.

“But how we balance the bench we will have to wait and see.”

Young forward Will Matthews has again been included as 18th man.

The Titans boast a strong record against Parramatta, having won all three competition matches contested between the two clubs since 2007.

Meanwhile, Gold Coast boss Michael Searle has made no apologies for the Titans' outspoken approach, dismissing critics who have branded them “whingers” in the fallout of their NRL qualifying final loss.

Website forums have sunk the boot into the Titans after coach Cartwright slammed the refereeing following their 40-32 weekend defeat to the Broncos at Skilled Park.

Titans centre Chris Walker also came under fire for insinuating that Broncos and Australian captain Darren Lockyer took a dive to milk a penalty in the second half.

But Searle has taken the criticism with a grain of salt.

“It's Tuesday and the game is still being talked about, it clearly shows what a magnificent event it was,” he said.

“Whilst we do not govern by popular opinion, we listen to our fans, and all our fan forums are firmly in our favour.”

Searle also strongly defended Cartwright.

While the Titans mentor blasted the referees in the post-match press conference, he was fined by the NRL on Monday for approaching match officials at half-time.

Cartwright has already issued a public apology and also revealed he will pay the fine out of his own pocket.

“I expect him to be a passionate coach, I don't want him not commenting at post match press conferences,” Searle said.

“If people can't cope with that, then too bad.

“I would rather my coach have an opinion. That's what our club is always about.

“We are not concerned about media spin or populous decision making, we just say it how it is - isn't that refreshing?

“Maybe the media should be thanking John Cartwright rather then criticising him.

“Maybe the Brisbane media aren't used to coaches having an opinion.

“When we stop coaches having an opinion, it will be a very sad day for fans and for the news outlets.”

Team: Preston Campbell, Kevin Gordon, Chris Walker, Jordan Atkins, David Mead, Mat Rogers, Scott Prince (c), Luke Bailey (c), Nathan Friend, Matt White, Anthony Laffranchi, Mark Minichiello, Ashley Harrison. Interchange: Michael Henderson, Brad Meyers, Sam Tagataese, William Zillman, Will Matthews (one to be omitted).

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