Walker's On: Hayne and Titans better off without each other
Former Maroons strike weapon Chris Walker brings the same attacking zeal to his new column for QRL.com.au as he was renowned for on the field.
The Gold Coast Titans are a team I’ve taken a particular interest in during the build-up to season 2018.
And no, not purely because my brothers Ben and Shane were in the frame at one stage to take on the coaching reins at Robina.
Just between you and me, I’ve been told by some influential people that they came within a bee’s whisker of getting the gig, but I think the Titans landed themselves a pretty good catch anyway in the shape of Garth Brennan.
Garth has runs on the board in the lower grades and comes to the Titans just a few months after taking Penrith to titles in the Intrust Super Premiership and State Championship.
He seems to have brought a much happier environment to the Gold Coast.
I don’t say that out of any disrespect to former Titans boss Neil Henry, who I consider a lovely bloke and genuine guy.
But sometimes genuine, honest people don’t survive in the pressure cooker of the NRL, particularly when they lose the support of a few key players.
The competition is so tight and the competitive edge so sought-after that you need the backing of pretty much every player and every person involved in the club.
Beyond Garth you can’t help but notice the Titans have brought in a great support team in Hayden Knowles, Craig Catterick and Luke Burt.
Knowles, Catterick and Burt have outstanding experience between them and are very knowledgeable blokes.
The other big personnel change that can’t pass without mention is the departure of Jarryd Hayne.
Remember that the Titans were traveling pretty impressively for an underdog club when Hayne first arrived there.
But then the ‘Hayne Plane’ landed and it brought a circus-type atmosphere with it. Everything went awry from there.
Ash Taylor, Kane Elgey, and Tyrone Roberts – who has since left for English club Warrington – were playing fantastic football and really backing themselves up until that point.
Then, you saw them almost instantly frozen in their tracks.
They stopped believing in themselves and trusting their own judgement and they were passing the ball to Haynesy, expecting him to do something special.
You can’t have your playmakers deferring to an outside back – and I don’t think Jarryd plays his best football in that environment either.
The Titans will be much better without Jarryd.
At the same time, I think we’re going to see Jarryd play much better now that he’s back at Parramatta.
He’ll have less responsibility, he’s back where he came from, playing in front of fans who adore him and I’m sure he’s happier off the field.
Back to the Titans though.
I know they haven’t had impressive trial form, but there have plenty of teams that have won premierships after being less than convincing in February and March.
They are going to face an odd start to the season, the likes of which we have rarely seen before.
Because of the Commonwealth Games, they will play just two games on the Gold Coast in the first 10 rounds.
After Sunday’s opener at Cbus Super Stadium against the Raiders, they will play in Auckland, Toowoomba, Brisbane, Gladstone, Penrith, Townsville and Canberra.
Most rock bands don’t even tour like that.
That time on the road can be make-or-break for a team with a new group dynamic.
Being away from home is generally a bad position in rugby league, but if they embrace it and become tighter and more resilient as a group with all that extra time together, it could work wonders.
I’m looking forward to Taylor and Elgey casting off the shackles and playing what’s in front of them again.
I’m looking forward to Bryce Cartwright having a license to play football and getting over what seemed a stale final year for him at Penrith.
Mostly though, I’m enjoying it being footy season again.
How good is it?