Gold Coast coach Justin Holbrook has lost patience with his under-performing spine, taking AJ Brimson out of the halves and moving him back to fullback to face Penrith.
Holbrook confirmed on Tuesday that Jamayne Isaako had been left out as part of widespread changes, with Jayden Campbel still on the comeback path from a rib injury.
Will Smith will partner Toby Sexton in the halves, while David Fifita has been named to revert back to the second row after his one-week experiment at centre.
ARTICLE CONTINUES AFTER THIS ADVERTISEMENT
The Titans’ 30-4 flogging from North Queensland marked the fifth loss in seven games for last year’s finalists, with the jury still out on Brimson as a five-eighth.
Sexton on Tuesday argued that the team’s defence was the main issue, but admitted he needed to step up at No.7 in his first full season.
“I think it’s a big thing for my own game. There are obviously areas I have to be better at,” Sexton said.
“I need to go back to playing the game because I enjoy it and not having all the pressure on me.
“If I can go back to basics it will do a lot to fix up my own game.
“AJ (was) doing an outstanding job at No.6. It’s just because we’re losing everyone is trying to come up with ways to improve us.”
Campbell could still play for the Titans after being named on an extended bench, but Holbrook’s 17 shows an intent to make changes.
He is also not the only coach to bring out the axe.
Des Hasler has dropped centre Morgan Harper after he was dominated by Cronulla’s Siosifa Talakai, with teenager Tolutau Koula to start against South Sydney.
Meanwhile the Sharks have received an even bigger boost out of last Thursday’s win, with Will Kennedy named to face Brisbane despite suffering a shoulder injury.
Dale Finucane (concussion) has been named to return and Wade Graham picked on an extended bench for the first time this year after his 2021 concussions and a pre-season ankle injury.
The news is not so good at Newcastle, with Dane Gagai and his likely replacement Hymel Hunt both ruled out with a fractured cheekbones.
The pair are both set for an extended stint on the sideline, adding to a lengthy list of casualties amid their five-match losing streak.
Elsewhere, the Warriors have lost Dallin Waetene-Zelezniak (concussion) and Josh Curran (knee) for their clash with Canberra on Saturday, while the Raiders welcome captain Elliott Whitehead back from his head injury.
And Wests Tigers have named Starford To’A at fullback to replace the injured Daine Laurie for their Sunday date with St George Illawarra, with the Dragons hoping Jack Bird has avoided a broken arm and can play five-eighth.
© AAP 2022