Gulls spread their wings
A LARGE local contingent will take the field for the Gold Coast Titans against the Brisbane Broncos on Saturday night, including many players from the Tweed Heads Seagulls Queensland Cup side.
In the first official trial for the senior Titans side, the coaching panel has picked a predominantly young squad to run out at Wynnum Manly, along with a few more seasoned campaigners.
According to Gold Coast National Youth Competition coach Steve Murphy, the list represents players who have been putting in the hard yards during the pre-season training.
“This is a reward for many players who have shown us they are ready to make a claim for a place in the Titans side,” Murphy said.
“We have some older heads in there to help give the young blokes some guidance, and we expect to be able to give everyone in the 26-man squad a run because of the unlimited interchange.
“By giving the young guys a run, not only will they gain valuable experience, but it will also let some of our older players know that there are blokes coming through who want their spots, and hopefully that will keep them on their toes,” Murphy said.
“There is a good mix of players, many who come from the Northern Rivers and Gold Coast.
“We expect the Brisbane Broncos to field a side which will also have a bit of a mix - old and new - and being a local derby-type match, it should be an interesting contest.”
Murphy said the coaching staff would be particularly watching players such as new recruits Sam Tagataese, from Melbourne Storm, and Matt White, from the Newcastle Knights, who will be making their debuts for the Titans.
Tagataese has been named in the second row alongside veteran Brad Meyers, while White will line-up in the starting front row alongside Ian Donnelly.
Chris Walker returns to senior rugby league after being out of the game for two-and-a-half seasons.
“Chris is a great athlete and after such a long break, he is very eager to have a run,” Murphy said.
“We have high hopes for him this season.”
Fullback Shannon Walker is another player of whom a lot is expected.
The 2007 Queensland Player Of The Year is now too old for the Titans NYC side and has an opportunity to stake a claim for the senior side.
“The time has come for Shannon to step up and show us his ability at the top grade,” Murphy said.
And Walker will be among familiar faces on Saturday night, with former Tweed Seagulls teammates Brad Davis, Selasi Berdie, Will Matthews and Brock Hunter also included in the squad.
The trial will see former Broncos hooker Ian Lacey take the field against his old club, along with teenage sensation Jordan Rankin who was the third youngest player ever to play in the NRL, Papua New Guinea World Cup winger David Mead and Titans NYC captain Ryan Simpkins.
Saturday is a big day for the Gold Coast Titans, with their SG Ball and Harold Matthews sides beginning their 2009 campaigns against Western Suburbs in Campbelltown during the day while the NYC Titans play the curtain raiser against a combined Brisbane/Wynnum side before the main trail Saturday night.