Queensland rugby league greats Darren Lockyer and Wally Lewis say the Titans got it wrong when they allowed Jamal Fogarty to leave, a decision that’s become more baffling in the context of their signing of veteran half Kieran Foran.
The Titans granted Fogarty a release from the final two years of his deal in the off-season, allowing their captain and a playmaker of 47 games with the club to link with the Raiders, where he’s currently sidelined with a knee injury.
That decision was on the back of the Titans’ resurgence, with the club returning to the finals last year, coinciding with the emergence of young halves Toby Sexton and Tanah Boyd, as well as the continuing rise of Origin star AJ Brimson.
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But for Sexton in particular, who has played every game this season at halfback, 2022 has been a tough initiation as the main man in the halves.
The Titans currently sit on just two wins from nine games, an alarming regression that has led to the decision to bring in Manly veteran Foran on a two-year deal from next season.
On that basis, Lockyer has formed the view that the Titans probably wish they held on to Fogarty, rather than going all-in on youth in their key positions.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing,” Lockyer said on Wide World of Sports’ QLDER.
“I believe in Toby Sexton, I think he can play the game. He’s young and having to play week in, week out and be that general for the Titans, it’s going to be a learning curve for him, it’s going to take some time for him.
“Obviously Kieran has been brought in to put some experience in those key positions, while Toby probably still learns his trade.
“In hindsight, they got that wrong.”
Lockyer added that the personnel changes had weakened the Titans defensively.
“The other thing to note, defensively and particularly on the left edge, they were very poor (most notably in their round nine thrashing to the Roosters). Will Smith was in the No.6 position, AJ was at fullback – these combinations in the spine have had an impact. I think if they had their time over again, they’d realize experience in the halves is pretty critical.”
Lewis said he was left scratching his head by the Titans’ decision to let Fogarty go at the time of the halfback’s departure.
“I’ve got to say, I was just as amazed as you were with the decision by the Titans,” Lewis said. “That was one that was extremely confusing.”
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In some positive news for the club, young gun fullback Jayden Campbell will return to the Titans’ line-up in Magic Round after recovering from a rib injury and working his way back to form through reserve grade.
Coach Justin Holbrook said Campbell’s inclusion will see him slot straight back in the fullback position, with Brimson shifting back to the halves to join Sexton.
“AJ Brimson, I think he’s a terrific five-eighth, terrific fullback, but we spent all pre-season with Jayden Campbell there [at fullback] and AJ wants to get back to No.6, and he wants JC back in the side,” Holbrook told 4BC’s Wide World of Sports radio on Tuesday.
“He’s a terrific defender AJ, so I think that tightens up that.
“Brian Kelly will have Phillip Sami back, and with Beau Fermor at back-row, that’s the left edge we spent all pre-season together.
“We got exposed badly against the Roosters and we’ve made the changes to fix that for this week.”
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Holbrook said he was confidant Campbell’s inclusion will help Sexton in particular as key combinations revert back to what was planned during the pre-season.
“Both AJ and Toby wanted JC back, but after his injury he wanted to make sure he was fully right… he will definitely help Toby’s game and he will help everyone’s game [when Campbell returns],” Holbrook added.
“They spent all pre-season together and AJ didn’t play round one. They only played round two and JC hurt himself in round three. They’ve only really played one and a half games together out of nine.
“When you look at losing games, you need your key guys out on the field.”
The Titans will face the 11th-placed Dragons on Saturday night.
While finals football still remains a possibility should the Titans string some performances together, Holbrook said it’s up to him and the players to accept the position they’ve found themselves in.
“It’s fair enough [the criticism]you have to be accountable for where you sit,” he said.
“I can’t defend the team when that is the case. I’m sure if we had won seven and lost two, they’d be saying how great we’re going.
“It’s fair, you get it both ways. Don’t cop the pats on the back if you can’t handle the criticism.”
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