The bookies have the Gold Coast Titans at long odds to make the NRL finals in 2018.Garth Brennan says he wants to entertain in his first season as an NRL coach but that just might be bluff from a man who rates Steve Waugh one of his biggest sporting inspirations.
The former policeman has been all smiles since taking over from the sacked Neil Henry at the Titans last October.
He has promised to develop, promote and retain the local talent while also spruiking his ability to relate with his players on a personal level.
Brennan, who arrived after impressing with Penrith’s under-20s and NSW Cup outfits, has seen Jarryd Hayne depart for Parramatta but welcomed another X factor player in Bryce Cartwright.
He has backed re-signed halfback Ashley Taylor to take ownership of the side and, admitting he is growing sick of hearing his own voice, talked often of his desire to provide entertaining football.
But he knows it will take a while for the new-look Titans to hit their stride.
That’s why, still smiling, he warns that there is just one thing he wants to see in the first round and has no hesitation in putting his players on notice that grit is non-negotiable.
“If you wanted someone to bat for your life, Steve (Waugh) was maybe not as talented as brother Mark, but you knew when the big moment came he would deliver,” Brennan told AAP.
“We’ve got some talent in our football team as well, but Steve had that mental toughness you look for and that’s what I want in my team; if we have to grind a win out and do it tough we can.”
Grit like that will help Brennan’s team earn respect and avoid embarrassments like last season’s record 54-0 loss to the Brisbane Broncos.
“I want to train hard, play hard and be a hard team to beat,” he said.
“That shows the attitude of the team; this roster, with all due respect, isn’t my roster that I’ve put together.
“Whether they’ve got that attitude, I’ll find out early in the year and if those players aren’t there I’ll find the ones that can be a hard team to beat.
“I’ve got some confidence, but we’ll see whether the individuals in the squad are up to that level that I want them to be at over the next 12 months.”
Brennan says if the team competes hard it will end up “where it deserves to” on the ladder and he is holding judgement on his own performance, too.
“You never know how you’re going to react as a coach until you’ve lost three in a row,” he said, still smiling.
“Hopefully that doesn’t happen much, if at all, but I believe in what I do and my strengths and I’m not going to be someone I’m not.
“We’ve done everything we can to get the boys in the right shape, ticked every box in the pre-season and I can’t think of anything that I’d change.
“It’s up to the boys to have the desire and want to see how far they want to take this thing.”
Ladder finishes over the past three seasons: 2017 – 15th, 2016 – 8th, 2015 – 14th
Coach: Garth Brennan
Captain: Ryan James (TBC)
Gains: Jai Arrow (Broncos), Mitch Rein, Bryce Cartwright, Leilani Latu (Panthers), Will Matthews (Dragons), Michael Gordon, Kiah Cooper (Roosters), Brenko Lee (Bulldogs), Brendan Elliot (Knights)
Losses: Jarryd Hayne (Eels), Brenton Lawrence (retired) Chris McQueen (Tigers), Nathanial Peteru (Leeds), Leivahu Pulu, Agnatius Passi (Warriors), Tyrone Roberts (Wolves), Daniel Vidot (retired), Pat Vaivai (Leigh), Ben Nakubuwai (Salford), Dan Sarginson (Wigan), Eddy Pettybourne (Toulouse), John Olive (Bulldogs)
Best team: 1. Michael Gordon, 2. Anthony Don, 3. Konrad Hurrell, 4. Brenko Lee, 5. Dale Copley, 6. Kane Elgey, 7. Ashley Taylor, 8. Jarrod Wallace, 9. Nathan Peats, 10. Leilani Latu, 11. Ryan James, 12.Kevin Proctor, 13. Bryce Cartwright. Bench: 14. Mitch Rein, 15. Morgan Boyle, 16. Jai Arrow, 17. Will Matthews
Predicted finish: 16th