Titans’ report card: How did they fare?
THEY finished 14th on the competition ladder and missed the NRL finals for another year but there is an excitement at the Titans that belies the obvious.
After a tumultuous 2017 season in which they axed coach Neil Henry, finished 15th on the competition ladder and eventually released marquee man Jarryd Hayne, the only way was up for the Titans this year.
And with new owners and a new coach secured in the off-season - as well as the long-term future of halfback Ash Taylor locked down - there was plenty of optimism heading into the new year.
So has the hype been realised?
The Bulletin's chief rugby league reporter Emma Greenwood looks at their season.
Titans report card
On-field mark: C
Plenty had the Titans pegged as wooden spoon candidates this season and while their 14th placing on the ladder - equal on points with the Cowboys (13th) and Bulldogs (12th) and just one win below the Knights (11th) was not what they wanted, there were glimpses of the potential of this team. Overall though, finishing seven wins outside the eight cannot be considered a safe pass for the club.
Off-field mark: B+
One of the biggest criticisms of the Titans over the years has been the club's inability to keep its best juniors on the Coast. The return of Gold Coast and Tweed Coast products Jai Arrow and Michael Gordon though, linking with Jarrod Wallace and Keegan Hipgrave who headed back down the M1 last year, is a big plus. Even more important are the junior development pathways the club now has in place and the expansion of its official catchment south to Coffs Harbour, while the club continues to set the lead in work in the community.
Player of the year: Jai Arrow
Arrow may have narrowly missed out on winning the Paul Broughton medal but he was the Titans' most consistent player this season. After leaving Brisbane to pursue an NRL starting spot, Arrow not only achieved that goal but won selection in Queensland's Origin squad, forcing his way into the starting side for Game Three. Ryan James is ageing like a good red wine and cannot be far off Origin selection for the Blues after another outstanding year for the Gold Coast.
Best rookie: AJ Brimson
After making his NRL debut in round 10 against Melbourne, Brimson found himself a permanent home in the Titans' game-day squad, eventually playing 15 games - 11 at five-eighth and four at fullback. So outstanding was his performance, Brimson is now being mentioned among candidates for the NRL rookie of the year. Moeaki Fotuaika was another who was outstanding in his debut season, with the 18-year-old's efforts to match it with players more than a decade his senior in the front row, an incredible feat.
Best buy: Jai Arrow
Arrow takes this one out as well after the former Keebra Park product returned to the Gold Coast from the Brisbane Broncos. But former Panthers, Sharks, Eels and Roosters veteran Michael Gordon is not far behind. The man known as "Flash" was solid as a rock at fullback before being sidelined with injury late in the season, but it was the professionalism and experience he brought to the club that were as vital as any tackle or run he made.
Most disappointing: Bryce Cartwright
There has been plenty of needless Cartwright bashing this season and we're not about to jump on the bandwagon. But it can't be overlooked that the man rated as an Origin candidate just two years ago was far from his best in his first season on the Coast. With coach Garth Brennan going out on a limb to secure him until 2021, the enigmatic playmaker needs to turn his form around next season. Another former Panther, Leilani Latu is another who has disappointed, playing just six games in the top grade this season.
Best win: Round 4 26-14 v Broncos at Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane
The win was the Titans' first against the Broncos in Brisbane since 2007 and restored pride after the Gold Coast's 54-0 shellacking at Robina last season. The victory hinted at the club's ability to push the best in the competition but this form was seen too rarely in 2018. Other strong wins included the 36-12 victory against the Warriors in Round 20 and the Round 23 comeback win against Manly, where the Titans prevailed 42-30.
Worst loss: Round 17 34-0 v Broncos at Cbus Super Stadium, Robina
If their Round 4 win against the Broncos was the Titans' best this season, their Round 17 loss was a massive disappointment, showing change will be a slow process for the club. Along with their Round 3 drubbing at the hands of the Dragons (54-8), it was the only time in the season the Titans were truly outclassed.
2019 expectation: Top eight
Anything less than a finals finish will be a disappointment for the Titans next season, although their job is far from simple. But with so many young players making major strides this year, the return of others from injury and the arrival of recruits Shannon Boyd, Tyrone Peachey and Tyrone Roberts, the Titans want to be considered contenders.