Brennan excited as Titans enter a new era
GOLD Coast Titans coach Garth Brennan can't help but feel excited about 2019.
Brennan is in his second year as head coach of the Titans after guiding the Gold Coast to a 14th-placed finish in 2018.
The Titans showed glimpses of brilliance last year, but struggled for consistency with a roster that lacked depth.
However a year is a long time in football and Brennan reckons this season will be different.
The Titans have a solid foundation with their new owners being at the helm of the club for more than a year now and Brennan has put his stamp on the playing roster.
He has made some significant signings in bringing NSW Origin utility Tyrone Peachey to the Gold Coast from Penrith along with former Kangaroos prop Shannon Boyd from Canberra.
He has a number of five-eighth options to play alongside $1 million-a-season halfback Ash Taylor and unearthed a gem of a player in AJ Brimson last year.
"I look at our roster, standard of our training sessions and it's hard not to get a little excited," Brennan said.
"But it's a tough competition. There are 15 other coaches all thinking they can make the eight. No one has lost a game yet."
Brennan, 46, took over the coaching duties from Neil Henry following a turbulent time in the club's history.
The Jarryd Hayne drama crippled the Titans in 2017 and Brennan was facing an uphill battle with the squad he inherited from Henry.
The Titans conceded 582 points last year, the third worst defensive record in the NRL, and Brennan said he had worked hard to improve their resilience.
"The boys have been taken to some dark places this pre-season, hopefully they've got a bit of a hard edge about them," he said.
"At times last year when the heat got put on us we crumbled a bit.
"Hopefully we're a bit more battle hardened this year to handle that when the pressure comes."
After winning reserve grade and under-20s premierships at Penrith, Brennan was thrust into the deep end at the Titans.
The Titans have come a long way off the field since he arrived in late 2017 and have a new CEO in Steve Mitchell following Graham Annesley's move to the NRL head office after five years at the club.
Immortal Mal Meninga has also joined the franchise to drive performance and improve its culture.
Brennan said the Titans' off-field improvements had given him more time to focus on his main duty.
"It's been a very different pre-season to last year," he said.
"It was a bit of a whirlwind last year. I was coming into a club which was still a little bit lost. It didn't have an owner, head of football or recruitment person.
"There was a lot going on and people wanted to know who the hell was Garth Brennan?
"It's nice to focus on coaching the footy team. Last year I had a thousand things going on.
"At times last year I felt I was doing everything else but coaching the footy team.
"I've got my stamp on the team a little bit more this year. I'm more comfortable with the roster and defensive structures.
"I wouldn't say I'm more relaxed. I'm still pretty intense.
"But I'm more excited for the football to come around. Last year I had so many other things going on that football was one part of it.
"I've been very conscious to focus more on the footy side this year. That's what I'm paid to do and want to do."
Local product Ryan James will captain the Titans again this year while utility Tyrone Roberts returns to the club after spending last year in the English Super League.
Brennan also added classy Manly centre Brian Kelly, a Titans under-20s product, to his roster just before the pre-season started.
The Titans will be looking to play finals football for the first time since 2016.
The Titans halfback is officially a $1 million-a-season player this year and has to deliver. Taylor will be the Gold Coast's chief playmaker and the team's entire attack will operate around him. He has played 70 NRL games now and should feel comfortable in first grade.
THE HEAT IS ON
There is no other way to put it - the 2018 season was a disaster for Cartwright. In his first season at the Gold Coast, Cartwright produced a terrible display where he lacked defensive heart and offered little with the ball. He had some excuses, but that isn't the case this year. Cartwright has to live up to his lofty price tag this season.
ROOKIE TO WATCH
A Gold Coast junior who has come back to the club from South Sydney. Arthars is a talented backline player who may have to bide his time but should see some NRL action throughout the season.
Entering his second year as an NRL coach, the pressure is on Brennan to deliver. The Titans have backed him by offering the coach an extension until the end of 2020 so he doesn't have to deal with the distraction of being off-contract. Brennan had a successful career coaching in the lower grades and is now out to prove he can do it in the big league.
STATE OF PLAY
Captain: Ryan James
Coach: Garth Brennan
Gains: Tyrone Peachey (Panthers), Shannon Boyd (Raiders), Tyrone Roberts (Warrington), Jesse Arthars (Rabbitohs), Ryley Jacks (Storm), Brian Kelly (Sea Eagles)
Losses: Kane Elgey, Brendan Elliot (Sea Eagles), Konrad Hurrell (Leeds), Tyronne Roberts-Davis (unsigned), Ryan Simpkins (retired).