Ryan James was a bright spot for the Titans in 2016
Photo Source: AAP
After their season from hell in 2015, things could only improve for the Titans this year, but even coach Neil Henry wouldn't have predicted a top-eight finish in what was a surprisingly successful year for a team many tipped to finish at the bottom of the ladder. The pre-season loss of halfback Kane Elgey to a ruptured ACL turned into a plus, with 20-year-old Ashley Taylor, who has just re-signed until the end of 2018, stepping up magnificently. At a young age Taylor can already do it all, and he combined superbly with Tyrone Roberts all year, while Ryan James also had his best season to date.
Gold Coast started the year well enough but lost five in a row from round five, the worst of which came against the Storm in round nine. The Titans rallied in the second half of the season to scrape into the finals. Apart from that 38-0 loss to Melbourne, Gold Coast were more than competitive in every other game. Their draw with the ladder-leading Sharks in round 21, ending Cronulla's long winning streak, showed they would be more than just pest value in the finals.
Their push for the finals came after adding Jarryd Hayne, who was underdone and far from his best, Konrad Hurrell and Nathan Peats, and with more signings on their way – as well as the return of Elgey – the Titans could certainly hope to do better than the 11 wins they managed in 2016.
Six games that shaped the Titans' season
Round 4: Titans d Raiders 24-20
Gold Coast had won two of their opening three to surprise everyone but were completely dominated by Canberra for the first hour of this match. All of a sudden they clicked into gear, with tries to David Shillington, Zeb Taia and John Olive giving the visitors a great win. The Titans were one of five teams sitting 3-1, but the club's bright start wouldn't last.
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Round 13: Titans d Rabbitohs 29-28
Four creditable but successive losses were followed by their hammering at the hands of the Storm. Gold Coast followed that with a pair of much-needed wins and they went into this match-up with renewed confidence. Taylor and Roberts engineered an early lead, despite South Sydney seeming to be on top, and the Titans' 12-0 lead at the break was soon 18-0. The Bunnies fought back with a couple of tries to Bryson Goodwin and Dane Nielsen, with the match eventually going down to the wire after Adam Reynolds converted to make it 28-all at the end of regular time. A Reynolds field goal in extra time was overruled due to interference, before Taylor nailed his own kick under heaps of pressure to grab the win.
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Round 20: Titans d Eels 34-14
Gold Coast were in the top eight courtesy of a big win and the NRL's final ruling to dock Parramatta 12 points. Making the Eels' week even worse with this win, the Titans kept their finals chances alive. It was really set up in the first 20 minutes as they ran in three tries and never looked like being headed. David Mead provided the highlight with a brilliant try-saving tackle on Parramatta winger Bureta Faraimo.
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Round 21: Titans drew with Sharks 18-18
Henry's side were quickly down 12-0 as the Sharks looked for their 16th win on the trot, and things were looking grim when Mead was sent to the sin bin. Five minutes before half-time Chris McQueen capitalised on a spilled ball, which sparked his team into action. Gold Coast levelled soon after the break before going ahead with a try to Anthony Don. Andrew Fifita pummelled his way through to level the scores with seven minutes to play. Thereafter followed a frantic end and an even more frantic 10 minutes of extra time, with James Maloney hitting the crossbar as he and Taylor tried and failed to break the deadlock. It was only the second drawn game of the NRL season and it showed the Titans had what it took to match it with the best when they were on.
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Round 22: Warriors d Titans 24-14
All the focus here was on Jarryd Hayne's NRL return, with the crowd of 25,109 the biggest Gold Coast had drawn in seven years. Hayne, without a pre-season and having been away from the game for so long, was serviceable, as the game see-sawed for almost an hour before a couple of New Zealand intercepts took the game away from the Titans. A pair of wins over the Tigers and Knights were followed by losses to the Panthers and Cowboys, with Gold Coast just clinging on to their spot in the top eight.
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Elimination final: Broncos d Titans 44-28
Gold Coast went into this final as massive underdogs and were up against it from the kick-off, losing Taia to a quad strain. Yet they took it right up to the home side in the first half, going into the sheds leading 18-16. The loss of Taylor in the 37th minute to a hip injury proved too much, with a dropped high ball from Hayne at the start of the second half setting the tone. In the end, however, the Titans could be proud of this effort and their whole season.
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