A new favourite has emerged to understudy David Fifita and Kevin Proctor as the Titans’ 17th man in 2021.
A new favourite has emerged to understudy David Fifita and Kevin Proctor as the Titans’ 17th man in 2021.

New favourite emerges to understudy Fifita

TITANS backrower Beau ­Fermor has emerged as the early favourite to understudy Kevin Proctor and David Fifita as Gold Coast's 17th man in 2021.

Fermor, 22, started in the centres just once in his eight-game debut season but that versatility is set to give him the edge in a three-horse race for the final spot in the Titans' matchday 17, with fellow backrowers Sam Stone and new recruit Sam McIntyre also in the hunt.

Coach Justin Holbrook has worked throughout pre-season to groom Fermor into the ideal forward utility, able to be injected across the entire backrow and both centres as required.

Beau Fermor during a Gold Coast Titans Rugby League Training Session at Parkwood. Photograph : Jason O'Brien
Beau Fermor during a Gold Coast Titans Rugby League Training Session at Parkwood. Photograph : Jason O'Brien

"Justin has been making a conscious effort to put me in at centre... and doing different drills at centre and backrow to make sure I'm ready to do the job if I need to," Fermor said.

"If I'm on the bench and someone goes down I'm always an option there for Justin to throw me in.

"I played a bit of centre throughout my juniors and a fair bit in the under-20s so it wasn't an unfamiliar role to me at all.

"If I'm playing off the bench my versatility is going to help my spot out."

Fermor has hit top speeds of 33km/h during pre-season, evidence that he has the pace to match it with the NRL's quickest players.

Beau Fermor in action during a Gold Coast Titans Rugby League Training Session at Parkwood. Photograph : Jason O'Brien
Beau Fermor in action during a Gold Coast Titans Rugby League Training Session at Parkwood. Photograph : Jason O'Brien

His ability to break the line was on display from his first game, when he torched Cronulla for 121 metres from six carries on debut.

The missing piece is the defensive side of the ball, which has been an area of focus with defence coach Jim Dymock.

"There's always something to work on but my defence is probably the biggest thing," Fermor said.

"I've been doing a lot of work with JD to nail down my defensive movements.

"Hopefully come Round One I've got them down-pat and I'm doing the right thing."

Former Titans centre Clinton Toopi backed Fermor to overcome any defensive shortcomings and become a valuable contributor at either position.

He is a fair judge as a former junior backrower who blossomed into a 156-game NRL career in the centres.

NRL Gold Coast Titans v North Queensland Cowboys at Skilled Park , Titans Clinton Toopi
NRL Gold Coast Titans v North Queensland Cowboys at Skilled Park , Titans Clinton Toopi

"You underestimate (the difficulty of defending at centre) when you're so used to playing backrow," he said.

"He (Fermor) has been caught a bit flat-footed at times but that will happen when you're playing against some of the best players on the planet.

"Even the best centres can find it tough and it's only a matter of time before that can be fixed.

"It's hard to find quality centres but once he knows the do's and don'ts he's more than capable (of playing there)."

With a backline already full of multidimensional footballers, selecting a backrower as centre cover ensures the Titans have insurance against injuries to half the players on the field with just one selection.

Centres Brian Kelly, Treymain Spry and Patrick Herbert are also capable wingers, while Phillip Sami can cover wing and fullback.

 

GENERATION SPEED: TITANS STOCKPILING PACE WEAPONS

 

THE Gold Coast Titans are using their senior development squad to stockpile an arsenal of speedy fliers, including the son of club legend Preston Campbell - who already rivals AJ Brimson for speed.

Three of the Gold Coast's five fastest players in 2021 are members of their four-man senior development squad.

Lightweight fullback Jayden Campbell, 20, signed with the Titans on a three-year contract in November, 2019, but is already one of the fastest players in the senior squad.

Campbell hit a top speed of 34.6km/h while playing for the Burleigh Bears against the Southport Tigers in Round Eight of the Rugby League Gold Coast season.

That is just 0.3km/h slower than speedster AJ Brimson's top gear of 34.9km/h, which he showed against the Cronulla Sharks in Round 14.

Treymain Spry (34.0km/h), Jayden Campbell (34.6km/h) and Alofiana Khan-Pereira (36.5kmh) are three of the Gold Coast's fastest development squad prospects.
Treymain Spry (34.0km/h), Jayden Campbell (34.6km/h) and Alofiana Khan-Pereira (36.5kmh) are three of the Gold Coast's fastest development squad prospects.

Only 'The Hound,' Phillip Sami, recorded a faster pace at the Titans in 2020 with a blazing 35.9km/h to equal the speed hit on his chasedown of Josh Addo-Carr the year before.

Though Sami was the fastest Titan in the NRL last year, young gun winger Alofiana Khan-Pereira maxed out at 36.5km/h to set a new team record as the fastest timed player while playing for the Burleigh Bears.

Centre/winger Treymain Spry was the fifth fastest Titan in 2020 with a 34.0km/h run against the Melbourne Storm in Round 10.

Spry is set to graduate from the Titans development squad at the conclusion of this pre-season as he grapples with speedy recruit Patrick Herbert for the No.4 jersey.

The fourth member of the development squad is back-rower Tristan Powell, another Burleigh Bears weapon who reached 32.0km/h in the Rugby League Gold Coast grand final.

That speed is was just 0.4km/h behind the top 2020 speed of NRL winger Anthony Don.

 

Fastest 2021 Titans in 2020 (Data: NRL Telstra Tracker / Supplied)

1. Alofiana Khan-Pereira, wing: 36.5km/h (Burleigh v Southport, RLGC Rd 1)

2. Phillip Sami, wing: 35.9km/h

3. AJ Brimson, fullback: 34.9km/h (v Sharks, Rd 14)

4. Jayden Campbell, fullback: 34.6km/h (Burleigh v Southport, RLGC Rd 8)

5. Treymain Spry, centre: 34.0km/h (v Storm, Rd 10)

6. Patrick Herbert, centre: 33.6km/h (v Panthers, Rd 4)

7. David Fifita, edge: 33.2km/h (v Cowboys, Rd 1)

8. Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, lock: 32.6km/h

9. Anthony Don, wing: 32.4km/h (v Broncos, Rd 7)

10. Tristan Powell, edge: 32.0km/h (Burleigh v Runaway Bay, RLGC GF)

 

Titans enter race for off-contract Maroons ace Xavier Coates

 

The Gold Coast Titans have moved to correct one of the biggest recruitment misses of their recent history by entering the race for off-contract Maroons winger Xavier Coates.

The 19-year-old flyer is now one of the NRL's fastest players but slipped under the Titans radar as a late bloomer at Currumbin Eagles.

Brisbane Broncos scouts were the first to identify Coates' potential as a 16-year-old and poached the prospect to Red Hill in 2017.

His meteoric rise, through the Tweed Seagulls national championship-winning under-18s and an international debut for Papua New Guinea, to a 100 per cent tryscoring strike rate for the Maroons in the 2020 Origin series - all by the age of 19 - has made the Gold Coast product rugby league's most wanted man.

The Titans missed the boat first time around but player agent Nash Dawson confirmed the club is among a score of NRL suitors hoping to woo the second fastest man in rugby league.

With the prospect of retirement looming for stalwart Anthony Don, Coates' signature would deliver the Titans a fitting successor to a club legend and complete an outside backs trio unrivalled for speed across the competition.

Coates' family still lives on the Coast, where his younger brother attends high school.

Melbourne Storm legend Matt Geyer, Coates' former high school and club football coach, said the opportunity to play in front of a home crowd was a powerful drawcard in the Titans favour.

"That opportunity can be a tough one to knock back," Geyer said.

"He's a Gold Coast boy and he was disappointed the Titans' junior development system showed no interest when he was young.

"He was always our best and fairest player at Currumbin but he just had no recognition at the next level so at 16 he talked about not playing (rugby league).

"I wish they would have come on board when he was 16 but that chance to play in front of mates and family in a home crowd is some enticement."

Coates' blistering 36.9km/h was the joint-fastest speed in the NRL until it was eclipsed by 0.3km/h by Josh Addo-Carr in the competition's penultimate round.

Unlike Addo-Carr, who built his game around his speed, Coates' 194cm, 100kg frame allows the young Bronco to challenge defenders with his aerial ability and physicality as well as that potent pace.

"What's enticing clubs to go to him is in such a short period of time, he's gone from being a 16 year old who couldn't make a local rep team to playing Origin, one of the best wingers in the game, at 19," Geyer said.

"People look and think, imagine what he'll be at 24.

"You can imagine if Addo-Carr was 20 kilos heavier and four inches taller and could leap tall buildings in a single bound, that's what people are imagining with Xavier."

Coates returned to training with the Broncos this week and will not make any decision on his future until he has at least tasted life under new coach Kevin Walters.

His loyalty to the club who gave him the chance no-one else did, and his desire to erase the memories of the Broncos first ever wooden spoon season, would be the reason Coates stays in Brisbane.

But the Titans have as good a chance as any rival to lure back one of the game's top young talents to his home patch.

 

HEARTBREAK DRIVING TITANS RECRUIT

 

The death of Gold Coast Titans recruit Patrick Herbert's 17-year-old sister is the constant heartache driving the rising Kiwi rugby league player to sacrifice everything to honour her memory.

Herbert was just 20 years old himself, having left his family home in Whakatane to test himself in a foreign rugby code with the St George Illawarra Dragons, when a phone call from home shattered his perspective on football.

The voice on the other end of the line informed him that his teenage sister Teresa Mae had taken her own life.

Herbert says her loss three years ago remains the hardest obstacle he has ever overcome.

"She always looked up to me," he said.

"I was her older brother; she was 17 at the time.

"That was a pretty tough time, not just for me but my family as well."

The support of Herbert's fiance Kiki was the first step in translating his pain into the strength to carry Teresa Mae's memory onto the field with him.

"With her by my side it made it a lot easier," Herbert said.

"Obviously it was still pretty tough but I use that as motivation now."

Herbert signed with the New Zealand Warriors to be closer to his healing family in 2019 but was cut adrift by the club at the conclusion of the 2020 season after 21 games.

Gold Coast, via Herbert's former Junior Kiwis head coach and Titans recruitment manager Ezra Howe, were quick to express their interest in bringing in the former New Zealand schoolboy rugby star to partner rising star Brian Kelly.

"I definitely want to but it's going to be a grind," Herbert said of filling the Titans No.4 jersey.

"There's great depth at this club, so many talented players.

"They're all good dudes, honestly. I can't say a bad work about them.

"They're all real professional, all just having a dig. It's different to the Poly (Polynesian) boys back home. You can hang out with anyone, it's like everyone is on the same level here.

"You see eye-to-eye with everyone. There's no egos over there (at Warriors) but it's just everyone is real easy to talk to at the Titans."

A point of difference in Herbert's favour in the centre race is his talent from the goalkicking tee.

The 23-year-old has kicked 18 from 25 career goals at a 72 per cent success rate; better than the career averages of both incumbent Titans kickers Ash Taylor (68%) and Jamal Fogarty (60%).

"I'm no Jonathan Thurston but I like goalkicking and I've worked hard at it," Herbert said.

"I'd love to do it but I have to get in the team first.

"I haven't gone through what the goalkicking process is here but I'll put my hand up 100 per cent."

Originally published as New favourite emerges to understudy Fifita



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