St Helens Head Coach Justin Holbrook gestures to the fans at the end of the Betfred Super League match at the DW Stadium, Wigan. (Photo by Dave Howarth/PA Images via Getty Images)
St Helens Head Coach Justin Holbrook gestures to the fans at the end of the Betfred Super League match at the DW Stadium, Wigan. (Photo by Dave Howarth/PA Images via Getty Images)

Holbrook’s titanic start to NRL season

The Gold Coast Titans have embraced the NRL's horror draw as incoming coach Justin Holbrook prepares for a baptism of fire in 2020.

The Titans have been dealt a savage start to next year following Monday's release of the 2020 NRL draw.

The Titans will face some of the NRL's best teams in the opening six weeks of the season, including grand finalists the Roosters and Raiders.

They are the only club in the competition to have been scheduled matches against 2019 top eight teams in each of the first six weeks.

The Gold Coast will kick off their 2020 campaign against the Raiders in Canberra on Friday, March 13.

They will then come up against the Eels (fifth in 2019), Broncos (eighth), reigning premiers Sydney, minor premiers Melbourne and Manly (sixth).

The last three games of that horror stretch are away fixtures, involving two trips to Sydney and one to Melbourne.

"There is no doubt that the first six weeks is a challenge for us, but it is a challenge we accept and look forward to," Titans CEO Steve Mitchell said.

"The ambition of this club is to be the best, and to be the best, you have to beat the best. That is the challenge for us to start the year.

"The players know that they will have to hit the ground running. There is no time to warm up or ease ourselves into it.

"When the season starts, we have to be ready to produce our best football, and that comes down to the hard work we will put in over the off-season."

Holbrook leaves St Helens for a very different proposition on the Gold Coast. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Holbrook leaves St Helens for a very different proposition on the Gold Coast. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

 

The Titans' first match against a bottom eight team from last season will be against the Tigers, who finished ninth, in Round 7.

It would be a good result for the Titans if they can emerge from the opening six weeks of the season with two or three wins. Anything more could be regarded as fantastic.

A disastrous start for Holbrook, who has taken over from sacked coach Garth Brennan, would be for the Titans to not win a game in the opening month of the competition.

That scenario would make it near impossible for the Titans to fight back into finals contention.

Even the Titans can feel optimistic at this point. Photo: AAP Image/Regi Varghese
Even the Titans can feel optimistic at this point. Photo: AAP Image/Regi Varghese

 

But if the Titans can overcome a tough start to the season, they will be rewarded with a favourable run into the finals.

They will play four of their last six games at home and one of those away matches is against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.

"The tough start to the season could be the making of our year," Mitchell said.

"If we can acquit ourselves well during that period, we will be set up nicely for the rest of the season.

"In the last six weeks of the year, we only have to leave southeast Queensland once, and that is a huge boost at a time of the year when bodies are starting to feel sore and tired.

"Hopefully that run home will allow us to build momentum for the finals."

The Titans' poor performances in recent years and lack of television interest has also cost them in scheduling.

They will play seven games in the unpopular Friday 6pm timeslot and four on Sunday nights.

The Titans will not feature on free-to-air TV until Round 12 against the Bulldogs on Thursday, May 28, one of only two Channel 9 fixtures.

However they are one of only two clubs, the other being the Broncos, to avoid any five-day turnarounds.

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News Corp Australia


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