Taylor one step closer to NRL recall with Titans set to shake up side

Star halfback Ash Taylor could be rushed back into the Titans team to face Brisbane next Saturday as senior coach Craig Hodges promises to make changes until he finds 17 players with the attitude the club needs to be successful.

After a bright opening to Sunday's clash with the premiership-leading Storm at Cbus Super Stadium the Titans saw an early 12-0 lead quickly disappear as they were overrun to the tune of 38-18 by a Melbourne team minus five of its Origin stars.

Gold Coast's left edge in particular was woefully exposed with almost every Melbourne player that ventured in that direction finding open space - Titans second-rower Bryce Cartwright was replaced 18 minutes from full-time and centre Brian Kelly had five missed tackles on that edge.

Playing a noticeably more direct style in the early parts of their sets to some success, it was the plays later in the tackle count that often let the Titans down.

Hooker Nathan Peats kicked out on the full attempting a 40/20, halfback Ryley Jacks's choice of kick in the first half placed no pressure on the Melbourne back three and they failed to force one dropout as the Storm forced four at the other end.

Out of the spotlight since stepping back from the game following the round-12 loss to the Cowboys, Taylor made his return in the Intrust Super Cup playing for Tweed Seagulls in the remote town of Ilfracombe on Saturday evening.

He scored the Seagulls' opening try to help turn an 8-0 deficit into a 28-12 victory over the CQ Capras, his positive attitude and enthusiasm to be back playing an even more important indicator that an NRL return is not far off.

Declaring "all positions vacant" in the wake of the loss to Melbourne, Hodges said Taylor won’t be selected in the top grade until his form warrants it.

"I'm not in a hurry to rush him,” explained Hodges, who coached Taylor in the Broncos under 20s.

"We'll have a look at his game and see how he pulled up and how he played and how he felt.

"It won't be Ash's decision when he comes back into the side, he'll have to earn his way back into the side. It's not simply a matter of him ticking a box and walking back through.

"He'll need to do the job and I know he will. I know he's excited to do that and I know he's really keen to do that. When he has to do it right, each part of the process that he ticks off helps to build his confidence and his belief.

“Then when he gets his opportunity again - whether it's next week or next month - he'll be right and he won't give it back."

Promising to review the team’s defensive structures in his second week at the helm in the wake of Garth Brennan’s abrupt departure, Hodges said much of the breakdown on Sunday was due to individuals not upholding the new standards the club is setting.

"To be brutally honest, it's guys just not doing their job. Individual guys on that left edge not doing their job properly," Hodges said.

"There's a minimum requirement with some of those plays. We spoke about our first contact and getting our body in front, pretty basic stuff that you'd normally work on in November and December.

"We haven't got a 12 or 14-week pre-season to make all these changes but these are changes that have to be made not only for the next eight weeks but as a club to go where we want to go in the next 18 months.

Titans forward Sam Stone.
Titans forward Sam Stone. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

"We know what direction we want to go, we know what we want to achieve and we just need to find to start with the 17 most committed to that."

Mid-season recruit Sam Stone played 60 minutes in his first start as a Titan and made a strong impression on his new coach.

"I thought he was our best today. I was really happy for him,” Hodges said of Stone who ran for 88 metres and made 30 tackles.

AJ Brimson missed the final 25 minutes due to a deep cork in his backside but is expected to be fit to face the Broncos.