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Hasler’s big chance to do over old side

Written By malwan milad on Minggu, 12 April 2015 | 23.01

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HE notched 255 games for Manly as a player and then coached the Sea Eagles in another 206 games. Now Des Hasler has the chance to inflict some heavy-duty pain on his former club.

Manly sit last on the NRL ladder with just one win from six matches.

The club and coach Geoff Toovey are under increasing pressure with Hasler's Bulldogs ready to heap more anguish on Manly at ANZ Stadium on Friday night.

Another loss will only add to the pressure, and will be followed by a tough assignment against the Storm in Melbourne the following week.

Manly's demoralising 22-12 loss to Penrith on Saturday night came a day after The Daily Telegraph revealed club chairman Scott Penn is closely scrutinising Toovey's future.

The Sea Eagles posted some stellar statistics against the Panthers yet lost the stat that mattered most — on the scoreboard.

The club has also been hit heavily by injuries, with Toovey already using 25 players this season.

"We trained hard and I thought our intent was there in defence, which we spoke about all week," Manly centre Steve Matai told the Sea Eagles' website.

Geoff Toovey is under fire. Picture: Mark Evans Source: News Corp Australia

"But we went to sleep for two or three sets and they put three tries on us. We've got to be better against the Bulldogs.

"We are usually good at defending an error, we have to get back to that. We just haven't been doing that this year.

"We have been making an error and then making things harder by letting a try in. We have to get better at defending an error."

Manly hooker Matt Ballin added: "It was one that probably slipped away, like a few of the other games that we've had.

"We just turned off for a couple of minutes and they put three tries on us. Disappointing, the effort was there again, which was a positive sign.

"I thought we made some great steps forward, grinding away. We just dropped away in little bits and that let us down."

Matai said he was ready to rip in against Canterbury.

"Once I cross that white line, it's go hard or go home," Matai said. "I'll be doing the same thing this Friday.

"Hopefully we can have a light week, pick it up Thursday and get into the Bulldogs on Friday."

Matai and Ballin were co-captains on Saturday and both spoke of the honour.

"It was massive, a very proud moment for me, my family, my parents, my kids," Matai said.

"Very privileged, very blessed."

Ballin added: "It was a great honour to do it with a guy like Stevie, who plays tough every game. Unfortunately we didn't get the result but it was an special night and I really enjoyed the responsibility. It was great."


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We’re nowhere near our best: Bird

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THEY flogged Parramatta in their own backyard to record the second highest points tally in their history, but Greg Bird says the Titans are not near their best.

Written off as finals contenders, the Titans beat the Eels 38-16 on Saturday at Pirtek Stadium to record their best win of the season.

Parramatta were poor, but were forced into many of their mistakes by swarming Titans defence.

The Eels had won 11 of their previous 13 games at Pirtek, but were dominated in the second half as the Titans' attack finally woke up.

While their win rate of two from six this season is still not good enough, coach Neil Henry has already made a significant difference to the team.

The Titans effort and defence had been solid through the season, but it was their attack that lacked composure, until Saturday.

The 38 points they piled on was the second best behind a 42 point effort, also against the Eels, in 2013.

The 38 points the Titans scored against the Eels was the second highest total in team history. Picture Matt King. Source: Getty Images

Bird had his best game following his suspension for drug charges that he has plead not guilty too.

He said the team was not getting carried away with their victory because their performance was still below standard in several aspects.

"We are still a work in progress. We weren't perfect. We have a lot of improvement in us," he told The Courier-Mail.

"We are just improving. We are finessing a few things. Combinations are clicking. We have had the opportunity to win games every week.

"It was good to get over the line. We have been good without being great the last few weeks. We haven't had that finishing touch.

"I thought I went all right.

"I am just going out week to week and trying to do the best for this team.

Centre James Roberts was the star for the Titans with a hat-trick including two intercept tries.

Bird said he was the fastest player he had witnessed during his 13 year career that included being in the same team as former Cronulla speedster Matthew Riek who scored some improbable tries for the Sharks.

Youngster Kane Elgey has impressed in his initial stint in the top grade. Picture Matt Roberts. Source: Getty Images

"Yeah I think he is the fastest. I remember playing with Matt Rieck (at Cronulla) and he was lightning, but Jimmy is up there as the fastest though," Bird said.

Bird was reluctant to weigh in on the club's recruiting process which includes a battle for half Kane Elgey.

"Kane and Dan Mortimer are here at the moment. When Morts comes back there will be a good tussle between those two," he said.

"I am happy with the guys we have here at the moment but I don't recruit or select.

"I hope one of those guys grabs the position for next year.

"It is up to the player, not the recruiters. He has to grab that position himself."


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Monday Buzz: Keeping a Bird grounded

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YOU can often tell in the first couple of games of a young player's NRL career if he is going to be become a superstar.

When Brad Fittler first burst onto the scene at Penrith and Laurie Daley at Canberra you almost knew straight away they would play State of Origin and Test football.

From day one you could just see it in the way they carried themselves.

It was so obvious they were something special.

Another player has burst onto the scene in the last two weeks who reminds me of them.

Jack Bird, 20, has been absolutely stunning in two games at five-eighth for the Sharks.

Twice in two weeks he's clearly outpointed two of the NRL's most experienced five-eighths, James Maloney and Jarrod Mullen.

No wonder the Sharks have already begun talks to extend his contract beyond the end of next season amid speculation rival clubs are ready to pounce.

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At the same time there is an argument that to be throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars at a rookie after a couple of games is fraught with danger.

Over the weekend I went back over the records to check on previous Dally M rookie-of-the-year award winners.

Let's just say they don't all finish up like Israel Folau, Jarryd Hayne, Daly Cherry-Evans or George Burgess, all previous winners.

Do you remember Tasesa Lavea? Probably not. He was the Kiwi five-eighth who won the Dally M rookie award in 2000.

He played 44 games for Storm, five for Northern Eagles before disappearing to provincial rugby union in New Zealand for the remainder of his career.

Others, like halfbacks Mark McLinden at the Raiders and Tim Smith at Parramatta, didn't live up to the early hype after being rookie of the year.

Tim Smith was a rookie who fell off the radar. Picture: Gregg Porteous Source: News Corp Australia

It's why the Cronulla Sharks and CEO Lyall Gorman are carefully planning their next move to guarantee Bird remains in a Sharks jersey long term, but at the same time not go overboard.

"The first priority is to keep his feet on the ground and focused for the long journey." Gorman said.

"We've seen young guys before come in and have the success Jack's had then lose their way. Clearly he's a special talent and off the park he's a very level-headed boy.

"He has tremendous belief and self-confidence but it's not an arrogance or aloofness that is going to get him into trouble.

"The increased media and attention from supporters can get in player's heads but we're really pleased at his progress."

The Sharks will hold further talks with his manager in the next few weeks.

"He's a talent and we want to keep him long term," Gorman said.

"He's one of the shining stars of the NRL and if we nurture him well to create a good career pathway, we can make it attractive to him to have a long-term future at the Sharks."

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Maloney's defence ruffling feathers at Roosters

JAMES Maloney is not just struggling to make the NSW State of Origin team.

He also has to convince Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson he deserves a new contract.

Maloney's poor defence has cost the Roosters dearly in recent weeks. He missed NINE tackles against the Cronulla Sharks and EIGHT against the Broncos.

Opposition teams are aiming their big men straight at him but it's not just the forwards who are hammering him.

On Friday night he missed the tackle on Broncos halfback Ben Hunt that cost the Roosters the game in a golden point thriller at Suncorp. Last year he missed 3.1 tackles per game. This year the average is up to five per game.

Mini no minor in popularity stakes

THE popularity of retired legend Anthony Minichiello continues to amaze the Roosters camp.

To get an idea of Mini's appeal you had to be at the Roosters' open training session in Brisbane on Thursday for their Queensland-based members before the Broncos game.

"He had the longest queue for autographs," said CEO Brian Canavan. "He was the last to leave the field.

"We've always known he was popular but this was amazing."

It's another reason why there is so much talk of the Roosters chasing a superstar of the calibre of Jarryd Hayne or ­Israel Folau.

On Hayne, Canavan says: "There's not a coach in the game who wouldn't be interested in Jarryd, or Israel Folau for that matter. The question is who can afford them? We don't even know if Jarryd will be available yet."


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Inglis, Thurston to square off in halves

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MONDAY nights don't get any bigger — superstars Greg Inglis and Johnathan Thurston getting the rare chance to square off against each other in the halves.

Inglis is sure to pop up at five-eighth for the premiers at various stages on Monday night during their bumper clash against a rejuvenated North Queensland Cowboys.

The loss of John Sutton means South Sydney coach Michael Maguire will turn to Inglis at various stages to plug the No. 6 slot.

He has also hinted Cameron McInnes could be used as a halves partner to Luke Keary.

But seeing Inglis and Thurston go head to head in the middle will be worth the admission to ANZ Stadium alone.

You have to wonder who deserves top billing when it comes to NSW-born and bred "GI", or cheeky Queenslander and three-time Dally M Medal winner "JT"?

Greg Inglis is set to play five-eighth. Source: News Corp Australia

Only 33 votes separated them during voting for the Indigenous All Stars clash earlier this year.

Ask Thurston and he'll give you a surprise answer.

"I think it's hard to go past GI's form when it comes to the best player in the game at the moment. But if you're talking the best player the past few years, it's hard to go past 'Smithy' (Cameron Smith),'' Thurston told The Daily Telegraph.

"I played a fair bit of footy with Locky (Darren Lockyer), and apart from Locky, I've never known a person like Smithy who can play a game and be so influential in it.

"But GI has been outstanding. Captaincy is obviously agreeing with him, and his game has gone to another level.''

Thurston wasn't fazed by the match-up with Inglis in the halves. It's been trotted out on several occasions already that Inglis won the Clive Churchill Medal at five-eighth for Melbourne.

Thurston pointed out any shift of Inglis from fullback could even benefit North Queensland.

Johnathan Thurston could line up against Greg Inglis. Picture: Phil Hillyard Source: News Corp Australia

"He's a big part of getting their sets started with his kick returns, and his quick play-the-balls for his back five to play off the back of, and that would be a loss for them if he plays in the front line,'' Thurston said.

"But he is comfortable in that (No. 6) role. He's big enough and strong enough to defend there. Souths are strong on the edges, and he'll have plenty of talk around him to assist him with that.

"But our game plan won't change because he's in the front line.''

A knee injury to Adam Reynolds, and the fact Inglis and possibly McInnes will slot into five-eighth, North Queensland are entitled to feel they're a red-hot chance to dust the premiers.

After three straight losses, the Cowboys bounced back with two convincing Monday night wins, largely because of Thurston.

The forgotten story of any positional switch by Inglis will be Alex Johnston being given a crack at fullback, which excites Bunnies teammate Chris McQueen.

The chance to play starting fullback could even lure Johnston away from Redfern at season's end.

"Alex Johnston has been going great on the wing for us, he got picked for Australia last year, and his preferred position is fullback,'' McQueen said.

"We're only enhancing his opportunities and giving him a better opportunity to play some footy if we put him back there.''


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Holmes surges into Origin contention

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CRONULLA teenager Valentine Holmes is being scouted by Queensland's State of Origin selectors as they sort through options in their unsettled back five for next month's series opener.

The selectors and coach Mal Meninga are determined to keep faith with the beaten side of 2014, but injuries to Billy Slater and Justin Hodges have had them tracking the form of 11-gamer Holmes, who has played wing and fullback for the Sharks.

Slater is expected to be out for at least three games more with a shoulder injury, but has demonstrated in the past he is a fast healer.

Hodges is in contention to return to the Broncos side to meet St George Illawarra on Friday at Kogarah after missing the past two matches with a hamstring strain.

Valentine Holmes is a bolter for the Maroons. Picture: Gregg Porteous Source: News Corp Australia

Will Chambers can play centre for the Maroons if Hodges, 33, cannot make it to Queensland's May 25 clash with NSW in Sydney.

To further the uncertainty over Queensland's three-quarterline, try-hungry left-winger Darius Boyd is making a steady recovery from an Achilles injury.

Chambers is a strong favourite to retain his right wing berth after a safe and constructive Origin debut there in Game Three last year.

But the Queensland selection panel have been impressed with Holmes in his 11-game NRL career and their previous knowledge of him as a Queensland under-20s standout.

Wet weather for Cronulla's win over Newcastle on Friday limited Holmes to one chance, which he turned into a Sharks try with acceleration and a well-weighted kick ahead for Luke Lewis.

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The Townsville product, who does not turn 20 until July, is not overly big for an Origin winger at 185cm and 87kg.

But Holmes' touches of class, which also saw him selected for the Junior Kangaroos last year, have caught the eye of many of the men who matter and may bestow an Origin blooding earlier than most considered likely.

Bronco Dale Copley lost some ground in the Origin selection states through no fault of his own when injured last month.

After his breakout 2014 season for Brisbane, Copley was filed away by selectors as one for the future even though Chambers was chosen ahead of him.

Copley had a strong defensive game against Roosters and NSW centre Michael Jennings while deputising for Hodges at right centre in Brisbane's golden-point win on Friday.


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Monday Buzz: Highlights, lowlights

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FROM Wooden spoons to Alex Johnston's contract future, it's all in Phil Rothfield's wrap of weekend sport.

HIGHLIGHT

The Glen Boss tweet after his old mate Jimmy Cassidy won the Sydney Cup at Randwick.

"If I had to pick a rider with my life in his hands. The Pumper hands down. Amazing champion."

HIGHLIGHT II

The Beast Manu Vatuvei and his two tries against the Wests Tigers is his 200th NRL game. What a wonderful player, ambassador and role model.

LOWLIGHT

We know the Parramatta Eels have a poor away record but Saturday's performance at home against the Titans was an embarrassment.

Alex Johnston is one of the hottest prospects in the NRL. Picture: Gregg Porteous Source: News Corp Australia

SPIN CYCLE

On one of the rare occasions they got something right, the NRL spin doctors sent Todd Greenberg and Gerard Sutton to The Footy Show last week to bask in the glory. Let's hope they do the same to explain the next major stuff-up. It would be nice to know why the Broncos were not penalised once in the second half against the Roosters.

SPOONFUL

Who would have thought Manly would be pressing for wooden-spoon favouritism. When the TAB reopens their most losses market this morning, expect the Sea Eagles to be around the $4 mark, their price slashed from $81 at the beginning of the year. Unbelievable considering they have never won a wooden spoon.

OLD IDEAS

Lots of questions are being asked about Parramatta and its 'Dads Army' approach to recruitment. Despite having the biggest and best junior league in the country, coach Brad Arthur has signed Anthony Watmough 31 and Beau Scott 30.

IN-DEMAND ALEX

At least the Eels are chasing one young gun, Souths winger and wannabe fullback Alex Johnston. Johnston is tossing up between the Rabbitohs, Eels and Roosters.


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Aussie teams on Super slide

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A HORROR weekend has seen Australia's conference exposed as the weakest of the three halfway through the Super Rugby season.

Four of the bottom six places on the table are now occupied by Australian teams, including the 10th-placed Waratahs.

Australian teams have performed pathetically in inter-conference matches against Kiwi and South African sides, losing 13 of 16 encounters so far.

WARATAHS V STORMERS: Stormers belt Tahs into submission

REDS V BULLS: Reds now Super Rugby's worst team

FORCE V CHEETAHS: Cheetahs heap more pain on Force

BRUMBIES V BLUES: Blues kick away from Brumbies

The Blues scored their first win of the season against the Brumbies. Source: Getty Images

All four Australian teams who played last weekend were beaten by foreign sides, while the Melbourne Rebels had the bye.

The Brumbies kicked off round nine with defeat in Auckland to the Blues, who claimed their first win of the year.

The Waratahs reverted to one-dimensional rugby against the adroit Stormers defence in Sydney and were convincingly swept in the second half.

The woeful Western Force lost their seventh consecutive game, to the Cheetahs in Perth, and then Queensland, now the wooden spoon favourites, lost to the Bulls in Pretoria.

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While the Hurricanes and Chiefs of New Zealand dominate the competition, and the Bulls, Stormers and Lions fight for top spot in a competitive South African conference, Australia's teams are struggling to beat anyone other than themselves.

Winning just three of 16 games against overseas rivals so far, Australia's teams have shown themselves to be significantly off the pace in a World Cup year.

Key players are underperforming and confidence is lacking across the board.

It won't get easier this weekend as the Waratahs travel to Wellington to play the runaway leaders, while the Force host the Stormers and Reds travel to Bloemfontein to take on the Cheetahs.

NSW centre Adam Ashley-Cooper, who made his return from a knee injury in the final 25 minutes of last Saturday's loss, will take on long-time Hurricanes and All Blacks rival Conrad Smith.

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"It's always good to be tested, they've got some of the best players in New Zealand playing in that backline; Conrad Smith, Ma'a Nonu, who wouldn't want to challenge themselves against those guys?" Ashley-Cooper said.

The Waratahs, defending champions, are struggling to penetrate defences as effectively as last season.

"We're just really disappointed we've lost two at home now, we had a real focus on making this place a fortress, a really tough place to play, and we let ourselves down in a few basic areas," Ashley-Cooper said.

"There are a few issues for us to address this week ahead of a very important game against the Hurricanes.

"It doesn't get any easier. One, they are playing really good football at the moment, and two, it is over in New Zealand so the travel is going to be a challenge as well.

"It's going to be a big week, a real test of character.

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"We didn't play smart enough footy [against the Stormers], defensively they were very strong, we didn't vary up the play enough, we got a little bit one-out off the ruck, just one-off runners, very direct in our attack," Ashley-Cooper said.

"We played with limited variation which made it easier for them. They applied good pressure in defence and we didn't work around with that.

"The fundamental point in any attack is to attack the space, we knew they were going to have a very strong defensive line.

"We wanted to work inside shoulders, work the spaces in between, be persistent in our attack but also when you're doing that and not getting much pay, you've got to look to your directors to make those calls and change up the point of attack. We didn't do that and let ourselves down."

SUPER RUGBY WEAKLINGS:

Australian teams have won just three of 16 matches against overseas rivals this season

Rebels 20 def Crusaders 10

Chiefs 19 def Brumbies 17

Highlanders 20 def Reds 13

Hurricanes 42 def Force 13

Highlanders 26 def Waratahs 19

Lions 20 def Rebels 16

Bulls 25 def Force 24

Hurricanes 36 def Rebels 12

Lions 18 def Reds 17

Waratahs 23 def Blues 11

Sharks 15 def Force 9

Brumbies 20 def Cheetahs 3

Blues 16 def Brumbies 14

Stormers 32 def Waratahs 16

Cheetahs 24 def Force 15

Bulls 43 def Reds 22


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Five clubs in hunt for Myles

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THE Gold Coast Titans are in danger of losing their captain and most consistent player in Nate Myles, who has already held formal meetings with one rival club and is booked to meet three more.

Myles would be a major loss to the Gold Coast as he is their most recognisable player and the cultural rock that bonded the team through their drugs crisis.

Coach Neil Henry wants to re-sign Myles but the club is juggling a complicated roster and have asked for more time to work their salary cap out.

Meanwhile, other NRL clubs are striking.

The rival clubs have tabled attractive offers for the State of Origin veteran who was among the Titans best in their victory over Parramatta.

Myles wants to make a decision on his future within a fortnight.

The Canberra Raiders and Melbourne Storm have been linked to Myles but they are not in the hunt for the prop who is now being courted by Sydney clubs.

Myles has been with the Titans since 2012. Picture Kit Wise Source: News Corp Australia

Myles' manager Chris Orr said his client was rightfully exploring formal offers following the Titans' decision not to activate a one-year extension on his contract.

"Four clubs have contacted me. He has met with one club and will meet with the other three over the next 10 days," Orr told The Courier-Mail.

"We are yet to receive any formal offer from the Titans at this stage but Neil has indicated he would like to sit down with Nate in the next week."

Myles has represented the Maroons every year since 2006, playing 26 games in the forwards for Mal Meninga's team.

The Titans last week lost five-eighth Aidan Sezer to the Canberra Raiders.

While the Gold Coast had tabled an offer to Sezer, he had already made his mind up by the time he saw it.

Aidan Sezer will depart the Gold Coast at the end of the season. Picture Adam Head. Source: News Corp Australia

The Titans will also meet with star centre James Roberts this week to extend his contract.

Roberts wants to stay on the Gold Coast and the club wants him to stay too.

However, he will require an upgrade on his current deal due to his stunning form.

Gold Coast need to fit him in their cap alongside their marquee signing in Daly Cherry-Evans, also managed by Orr, who is being paid more than $1 million a year from next season.

The Titans are still interested in signing a strike centre after missing out on Dane Gagai, who has re-signed with Newcastle.

Then they need to re-sign Kane Elgey, who has received a significant offer from Manly, who want him to replace Cherry-Evans.


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Titan could be Manly’s DCE replacement

Written By malwan milad on Minggu, 05 April 2015 | 23.01

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MANLY have upped the ante in their bid to poach Gold Coast young gun Kane Elgey after the rookie halfback baulked at a three-year contract extension from the Titans.

Elgey will tour the Sea Eagles' Brookvale Oval headquarters in the next fortnight as the Silvertails search for a replacement for Titans-bound star Daly Cherry-Evans.

Manly have already submitted an offer to Elgey's manager, Tas Bartlett, which trumps the three-year deal tabled by the Titans last week.

Elgey has made a promising start to his NRL career as Daniel Mortimer's replacement, but the Titans have held back on offering a bumper salary increase for last season's Holden Cup's player of the year.

Titans coach Neil Henry is a fan of Elgey but has some delicate salary cap juggling to do given the club will be paying ''DCE'' $1 million a season.

Titans halfback Kane Elgey is being wooed by Manly. Source: Getty Images

The Titans have also been linked to several players for 2016, the latest being Parramatta five-eighth Corey Norman, who could be forced out by the arrival of Sea Eagles star Kieran Foran.

Norman, a Keebra Park product, has been in scintillating form and is a left-footed kicker who could be the perfect foil for Cherry-Evans.

Elgey is keen to stay on the Gold Coast but Bartlett said the 21-year-old would explore every option.

"He'll go down to Sydney and have a look around," he said.

"Manly have tabled a very good offer that would make him the starting halfback.

"He would love to remain a Titan however the current offer shows me they are in the market for someone else to partner Cherry-Evans."

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Complicating the situation is the uncertainty surrounding five-eighth Aidan Sezer.

Sezer is a free agent at season's end but has put contract talks on hold as he strives to find form on the field.

Sezer has moved to the right side of the field to make Elgey's transition to first grade simpler given he is also a left-foot kicker.

Cherry-Evans will wear the No. 7 jersey next year, meaning there is only one other halves position up for grabs.

Elgey made a solid debut in the Round 4 win over Cronulla and was defensively sound in Friday night's loss to Brisbane.


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Giant Titan shapes as Blues Origin bolter

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IN A bizarre role reversal, giant Titans second rower Ryan James has hailed diminutive halfback Kane Elgey for saving him in defence.

There is a 15cm and 35kg difference between them but James said the fact the little half had to cover him shows he should not be thinking about playing for the Blues.

Laurie Daley has stated James is Origin material and the 193cm forward has been among the Gold Coast's best in a disappointing season start.

Shifted to the edge this season after playing prop last year, the often injured James is showing why he has been hyped as a potential star.

However, ask James about his form and all he does is lament his defensive lapses and wish the Titans had executed better in their 26-16 home loss to Brisbane on Friday.

"You should never be satisfied with your own game," James said.

Ryan James has been one of the Titans' best in 2015. Source: Getty Images

"There are things I need to work on. Kane Elgey saved me a couple of times in defence.

"It is a bit strange for a halfback to save a second-rower in defence, it is usually the other way around.

"It is good to play consistent footy but disappointing to lose. We are one from five but we could have been three from five.

"I am not thinking about Origin.

''My focus is to get the Titans some wins and improve my own game.

"The effort is there from us. We need to work on our game plan and execute better."

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James' new-found versatility will help his Blues chances, where he is a realistic option for a bench spot.

"On the edge it is a lot different to the middle. I don't have to do those bash-up runs anymore but I have to time my runs now and get better at that," James said.

James Tamou's position in the NSW side is in danger while Trent Merrin has been average for St George Illawarra.


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