Half a chance
By ADRIAN MILLER
IT'S OFTEN said rugby league can be a tale of two halves. Tonight at Oakes Oval, Lismore, it definitely will be ? about halves combinations, that is.
When the Gold Coast Titans run out their first-grade side for the first time against the Parramatta Eels, both coaches are eager to see how their new halves pairings shape up.
Gold Coast coach John Cartwright will throw Scott Prince and converted hooker Matt Hilder together, while Eels boss Michael Hagan will trial Tim Smith and former Roosters pivot Brett Finch in the all-important roles.
Hilder has first shot at five-eighth after Cartwright's decision to switch Preston Campbell to fullback, but he believes the boy they call Matilda is ready-made for the position.
"I'm looking forward to seeing Preston at fullback and the halves in Prince and Matty Hilder," he said.
"He (Hilder) hasn't played a lot at five-eighth but he's a ball player and I think he's made for the position."
And since the Titans are still in their infancy, Cartwright said the game would be all about the basics.
"(The game's about) getting some experience together, working on combinations and getting our defence right," he said.
"(We'll be doing) all the little things in the game that we've been working hard on over the past few months."
Mat Rogers has received plenty of press since his early arrival at the Titans and he will be a crowd favourite tonight, but Cartwright said there wouldn't be any pressure on him.
"Nothing's expected of Matty," he said. "It's just about him getting on the field and used to the pace of the game, and adjusting to the little things.
"Hopefully he'll enjoy himself and get acclimatised to the game again."
Hagan, who is new to the Eels after moving from Newcastle, said he was eager to see how his new pair combined with the rest of the attack.
"Our halves are going to be important to us, especially how they work with (hookers) Mark Riddell and PJ Marsh and fullback Luke Burt," he said.
"They're things I want to see us get in place over the next couple of weeks."
With backs the calibre of Luke Burt, Jarryd Hayne and Eric Grothe for the Eels and Mat Rogers, Preston Campbell and Jake Webster for the Titans, both sides have game breakers all over the park.
And Hagan, for one, is keen to unleash them. "I'm pretty excited about our backline," he said. "It would be nice to put on a good performance for the fans who come to watch the game."
n Gates open this afternoon at 3pm. Tweed Heads Seagulls Colts play the Northern Rivers Academy side at 4pm, before Seagulls first grade face Ipswich Jets from 5.30pm. The Titans and Eels will kick off at 7.30pm.
TITANS: Preston Campbell, Lelea Paea, Mat Rogers, Brett Delaney, Jake Webster, Matt Hilder, Scott Prince, Luke Bailey, Clint Amos, Brad Meyers, Anthony Laffranchi, Gavin Cooper, Luke Swain. Interchange: Michael Henderson, Kris Kahler, Mark Minichiello, Luke O'Dwyer, Isaac Kauffman, Nathaniel Barnes, Josh Graham, Matt Petersen, David Myles, Jordan Atkins, Chris Walker, Smith Samau.
EELS: Luke Burt, Jarryd Hayne, Ben Smith, Joel Reddy, Eric Grothe, Brett Finch, Tim Smith, Nathan Cayless (c), Mark Riddell, Fuifui Moimoi, Ian Hindmarsh, Chad Robinson, Daniel Wagon. Interchange: PJ Marsh, Josh Cordoba, Todd Lowrie, Justin Tsoulos, Richard Fa'aoso, Feleti Mateo, Aaron Cannings.
Referee: Ben Cummins.