New beginnings for Queensland’s three NRL franchises will herald a new era for the Maroons in the next few seasons as the Broncos, Titans and Cowboys rebuild on the back of some of the state’s most talented youngsters.
While the Titans finished the season strongly to finish just outside the finals in ninth spot on the ladder, 2020 was an abject disaster for the Broncos and Cowboys, with both clubs sacking their head coaches to stem the bleeding from disastrous campaigns.
The Cowboys finished 14th with just five wins for the year, while the news was infamously worse for the Broncos, who picked up the first wooden spoon in the club’s 32-year history with an appalling three wins from their 20 matches – including just one victory from their final 18 games.
While the Titans led the way for the Queensland clubs in 2020 in terms of results, they are also showing the way with regards to how quickly fortunes can turn from embarrassment to encouragement.
In 2019, it was the Titans who were at the foot of the ladder – winning the spoon after banking just four wins for the year, and axing coach Garth Brennan before the season had finished as the club imploded under the weight of its under-performing stars.
Just 12 months down the road, the Titans are now being mentioned as the NRL’s massive improvers.
The Coast now boasts a successful and entertaining brand of football under new coach Justin Holbrook, a refreshed culture under Mal Meninga and a roster that has long-suffering fans excited about the years ahead.
Last Christmas, it seemed like the death knell was sounding for the Titans when Queensland forward Jai Arrow announced he was quitting the club to join South Sydney in 2021.
But savvy recruitment saw all their Christmases come at once this year, with Queensland Origin contenders Corey Thompson (Wests Tigers), Tino Fa’asuamaleaui (Melbourne Storm) and – the big one – Broncos star David Fifita, as well as Tongan international Herman Ese’e (Newcastle Knights), on the books.
They will join a bevy of young Queenslanders headed by AJ Brimson, Moeaki Fotuaika, Beau Fermor, Keegan Hipgrave, Tanah Boyd, Ash Taylor, Jamal Fogarty, Treymain Spry and Phil Sami who are not only rebuilding the Titans, but replenishing Queensland’s Origin depth as well.
The Maroons scored a major coup with Fotuaika shunning interest from New Zealand and pledging his allegiance to Queensland.
Maroons hierarchy were so unsure of Fotuaika’s allegiance he was not listed on the Queensland Rugby League’s official register of Origin eligible players.
But the confusion is over, with Kevin Walters leading negotiations to confirm Fotuaika is officially a Queenslander – putting the 20-year-old firmly in the selection mix for Origin I against NSW in South Australia.
“Moe is eligible for Queensland,” Walters said.
“I spoke to him last week and he has confirmed he wants to play for us.
“He has some strong cultural ties to Tonga and New Zealand but Moe has always been on my radar and I’m glad he is committed to play for the Maroons.
“He has been outstanding for the Titans for the past two seasons. I just love his toughness, he has battled a wrist problem and he has soldiered on, so he’s genuinely on the radar for an Origin debut.”
The rapid resurrection of the Titans will give the Broncos and Cowboys faith that their time in rugby league purgatory will be a similarly brief stop, and the Maroons’ traditional talent production lines will be back to normal as soon as possible.