Justin Holbrook plans to keep co-captain Jamal Fogarty warming the pine in his happy three-into-two halves headache as Gold Coast shot to seventh place once more by disposing of the Cowboys.
While Todd Payten plans to continue with Jason Taumalolo's edge experiment that reduced the Tongan powerhouse to near-passenger status in a 36-14 loss, counterpart Justin Holbrook is prepared to make a crunch call on his scrumbase.
Rookie halfback Toby Sexton and off-contract playmaker Ash Taylor converted a mountain of first-half position into a comfortable Gold Coast win, their third on the trot since combining as a halves pairing.
Fogarty's addition of another year on his contract – tying him to the Titans until the end of 2023 – was announced during the week, but his return from a compound finger fracture will be kept on ice while ever the Sexton-Taylor pairing keeps delivering.
Holbrook confirmed after full-time that four-game youngster Sexton is set to keep the No.7 spot with Taylor alongside for a critical Saturday afternoon clash with South Sydney.
Match: Titans v Cowboys
Round 21 -
Venue: Cbus Super Stadium, Gold Coast
"Jamal's been great for us last year and this year but I'm really happy with Toby and Ash," Holbrook said.
"I think they're combining really well.
"I like the stability there so I'll likely to keep them it as is and Jamal will just have to wait for his opportunity."
With four rounds left and five teams separated by one win around the edge of the top eight, Fogarty's influence most likely can't be ignored forever.
Taylor kicks early in the count for Kelly
His leadership status at the club too is beyond reproach too according to Holbrook, and backed up by an off-field resume of charity work that trumps most every other player in the NRL.
But with Taylor playing for a 2022 contract, and Sexton playing with composure well beyond his 20 years, Holbrook says the pair are simply keeping their skipper out of his best game-day line-up.
"Obviously [Fogarty] is co-captain of the club with Kevvy Proctor, he's terrific for our club, that's why we needed him here today [as a reserve]," Holbrook said.
"He's still a huge part of our club whether he's running out on the field or not, I've just got to pick the best 17 for the weekend and we just get on with it."
Both Taylor and Sexton kicked often and well against the Cowboys, the latter especially dangerous with a try, 40-20 and two drop-outs all forced by his boot.
With the Titans enjoying possession in the vicinity of 60 per cent throughout the contest, losing Murray Taulagi (first minute) and Lachlan Burr (52nd) to HIAs proved far too much for North Queensland.
Six penalties and several pregnant pauses in the first 15 minutes made for stop-start opening exchanges before Brian Kelly pounced on a Taylor grubber.
Fermor with a pass you have to see to believe
The four points all count the same, but Kelly's could well have earned extra for degree of difficulty given he dislocated a finger and face-planted the turf in the process.
AJ Brimson's 23rd-minute try came with similar slapstick, two North Queensland knock-ons while defending eventually leaving the Titans No.1 with nothing but clean air between him and the try line.
When Brimson got on Taumalolo's outside to send David Fifita at, and then over Jake Granville, the Gold Coast led 14-0, though Tom Dearden's runaway try from a ricocheted grubber trimmed the advantage to 10 at the break.
Beau Fermor had some fun upon the resumption, first with an audacious no-look flick pass for Kelly's second, and then getting himself on the scoresheet as well from a Sexton grubber.
Just when you think the tries can't get any better
Valentine Holmes did likewise when Kyle Feldt broke away down the right touchline before kicking back in-field, but with an hour gone the game was already at the same stage.
Corey Thompson made doubly sure with a double-take off his own boot after Taylor’s long ball put him in space, the pint-sized winger chipping the Steeden over Holmes from the sodden Gold Coast turf.
This time it was Taylor trailing through for a well-deserved try, giving Holbrook yet more cause for consideration with his creative types, before Feldt and Herbert finished off with a few more points for the road.