Plenty of “f” words have no doubt been muttered in the past by frustrated Gold Coast coach Neil Henry.
Now Henry is using one that hasn’t been heard on the tourist strip since 2010 – finals.
All they need is a bit of luck, Henry says.
They are due.
Gold Coast finished third-last in 2015 after a drama-charged NRL season in which they failed to snare backflipping Manly playmaker Daly Cherry-Evans and seven Titans were implicated in a Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission probe into an alleged drug ring.
It couldn’t get any worse – or so Henry thought.
In bizarre scenes, superstar centre James Roberts left in the off-season over a forged contract bungle.
Then prized halfback Kane Elgey suffered a season-ending knee injury in January.
As Henry no doubt tried to avoid black cats and broken mirrors, the bookmakers made Titans the firm 2016 wooden spoon favourites.
Henry admits finals berths will be even harder to earn this year.
But he truly believes all the pieces are in place for a top eight tilt in 2016.
“There are probably three or four teams who think they have the right to be in the top four,” Henry told AAP.
“The rest of us are fighting for those other four positions.
“You need a bit of luck with injuries but I am confident we will win our fair share of games.
“And if we are thereabouts we will play finals footy which we haven’t done for a long time.
“It is a rebuilding phase but you are never rebuilding when you take the field, you are out there to win – that’s what we aim to do.”
First the positives – the Titans are again blessed with an impressive pack despite the departure of skipper Nate Myles.
NSW prop-in-waiting Ryan James and ex-Test forward David Shillington complement workhorse Luke Douglas and Super League import Zeb Taia.
Then there’s the added punch of Greg Bird and mobile ex-Queensland backrower Chris McQueen.
But Henry believed Tongan juggernaut Agnatius Paasi may turn most heads with interchanges limited from 10 to eight this season.
“He could be anything,” Henry said of the Auckland Nines standout.
“He has worked hard on his fitness to ensure quality minutes – he should make an impact.”
What could make or break Henry’s finals plan is the untried halves pairing of Ash Taylor and ex-Newcastle pivot Tyrone Roberts.
“Kane’s injury was a real shame so now Ash Taylor has been thrown into the spotlight a bit quicker than anticipated but he’s up to the challenge,” Henry said.
“But the acid test will be how they perform in a game.”
GOLD COAST TITANS
Finishes over the past three seasons: 2013 – ninth, 2014 – 14th, 2015 – 14th.
Coach: Neil Henry
Captains: Nathan Friend, William Zillman
Gains: David Shillington (Canberra), Nathan Friend (Warriors), Zeb Taia (Catalans Dragons), Ashley Taylor (Brisbane), Tyrone Roberts (Newcastle), Chris McQueen (South Sydney), Nathan Davis (Parramatta).
Losses: James Roberts (Brisbane), Nate Myles (Manly), Aidan Sezer (Canberra), Dave Taylor (Catalans), Kevin Gordon (retirement), Shaun Hudson (North Queensland), Ben Ridge (retirement), Matthew White (Melbourne), Brad Tighe (retirement), Kalifa Faifai Loa (Dragons), Beau Falloon (Leeds).
Strength: As always, their forwards. Have the measure of any rival pack even with Myles gone. Tongan battering ram Agnatius Paasi adds extra X-factor.
Weakness: Their halves. Young gun Ash Taylor has been fast-tracked into the halfback role alongside fellow Titans new arrival, ex-Knights pivot Tyrone Roberts. How they gel with Kane Elgey sidelined may make or break their year.
Best team: William Zillman (capt), Anthony Don, Josh Hoffman, Nene Macdonald, David Mead, Tyrone Roberts, Ashley Taylor, Ryan James, Nathan Friend (capt), David Shillington, Chris McQueen, Greg Bird, Agnatius Paasi. Interchange: Daniel Mortimer, Eddy Pettybourne, Zeb Taia, Luke Douglas.
Predicted finish: 15th