When Daly Cherry-Evans infamously backflipped on a multi-million dollar deal to join Gold Coast, it looked a devastating setback for the NRL club.
Just months after being forced into administration and acquired by the NRL, the Titans had lost out on their marquee man in another bodyblow that a struggling club simply didn’t need.
Fast forward 12 months though and it’s the Titans that are looking the unlikely winners from the situation.
While Cherry-Evans has endured an underwhelming campaign with 13th-placed Manly, the Titans are sitting in eighth after a dramatic golden-point victory last weekend against South Sydney inspired by young halfback Ash Taylor.
The 21-year-old’s attention-grabbing display against the Rabbitohs in Perth included a try and the match-winning field goal.
Lured from Brisbane with the promise of first grade football, Taylor has been a revelation in 2016.
The former junior Kangaroo is earning a reported $200,000 a season, a drop in the water compared to the $1.2m Cherry-Evans is paid by the Sea Eagles.
It hasn’t stopped Taylor outperforming Cherry-Evans in several key stats this season, his form already catching the eye of Queensland coach Kevin Walters.
The Maroons wanted to have Taylor spend time with them during their camp on the Gold Coast in the build-up to Origin I but the Titans put a stop on that idea, insisting Taylor have a rest during their bye week.
Halves partner Tyrone Roberts, who is seen as a mentor for Taylor, said the performance that then followed against Souths was insipirational.
“He’s got some skill and it’s good to see him back himself like he does,” Roberts told AAP.
“He’s firing, you know what I mean?
“It’s just his control. He’s got good composure. All the stuff that people say, all the pressure gets put on him. He takes it with both hands.”
Comparisons are already being drawn between the Titans’ acquisition of Taylor and North Queensland’s move to lure a young Johnathan Thurston north from Canterbury in 2005.
Former New Zealand captain and St George Illawarra veteran Benji Marshall says there’s no doubt the Titans are actually better for Cherry-Evans’ backflip.
“I haven’t been more in awe of a young player to stamp his mark on a game than I’ve seen (from) this young guy,” Marshall told Fox Sports.
“If you look back to 12 months ago to where the Gold Coast Titans were as a club and as a team, you would have thought they were going to get the spoon this year.
“Now looking at their team with what Ashley Taylor’s done, it’s exciting for them.
“Kane Elgey coming back potentially next year with them two possibly being the halves pairing, I think it’s great for them.”
ASH TAYLOR v DALY CHERRY-EVANS – Key 2016 statistics
Tries: Taylor 4, Cherry-Evans 2
Line breaks: Taylor 4, Cherry-Evans 1
Try assists: Taylor 6, Cherry-Evans 4
Offloads: Taylor 14, Cherry-Evans 9
Line break assists: Taylor 3, Cherry-Evans 2
Kicking metres: Taylor 2129, Cherry-Evans 2417
40-20s: Taylor 1, Cherry-Evans 0