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Blow for Titans as Bailey out for season

27/06/2008 07:09:42 PM Comments (0)

Gold Coast coach John Cartwright is taking heart from early season performances after the massive blow of losing inspirational prop Luke Bailey for the rest of the NRL season.

The fifth-placed Titans' premiership hopes have taken a dive with the loss of Bailey who underwent surgery on Thursday night to have his injured ankle pinned.

The Titans co-captain won't return until 2009 due to a separation of the ankle joint suffered in Monday night's 24-23 loss to South Sydney.

That loss has been compounded by fellow prop Aaron Cannings being ruled out for at least six weeks with a broken leg.

Gold Coast's fit front-rowers Michael Henderson and Michael Hodgson will now try to allay supporters' fears when they start against in-form St George Illawarra at Skilled Park on Saturday night.

The Titans will also be without State of Origin trio Scott Prince, Ashley Harrison and Anthony Laffranchi as they attempt to keep their unbeaten 2008 home record intact.

Although deeply disappointed by Bailey's prognosis, Cartwright talked up the club's forward depth and pointed to its early-season record without the former NSW Origin prop.

Bailey missed five games from round five with a broken arm and the Coast still managed to win all but one game, a close defeat away to Newcastle.

"It's never good news to lose your star front-rower for the season," Cartwright said.

"While it is a major blow I think we can at least cover it better than we did last year.

"We handled it earlier in the year and I'm sure we'll be able to handle it for the rest of the year.

"It will test our depth ... but we definitely wouldn't want to lose any more."

James Stosic has been promoted to a five-man interchange bench against the Dragons while the Titans also have former Penrith forward Matt Cross and Ian Donnelly to call upon if required.

Cartwright said the club was lucky Henderson had returned this month from a year-long sideline stint with a broken leg.

"We only saw him for four or five games last year and only a couple this year, it's like bringing a new guy into the team," he said.

"He's been outstanding in his two games for us."

The injury-riddled club did receive some good news on Friday, with back-rower Daniel Conn (shoulder) added to a five-man bench after training strongly to suggest he'll play.

With no Bailey or Prince, Preston Campbell will be a first time captain in the clash.

"There's no more respected guys in the game than Presto," Cartwright said. "I know if he asks for something the players are going to respond."

The Dragons, who travelled to the Coast with an 18-man squad, will start as favourites to be the first visiting team to have success at Skilled Park.

The NRL draw has again aided the sixth-placed Dragons who have previously beaten depleted Melbourne and Brisbane sides before the first two Origin clashes.

Nathan Brown's men are searching for their sixth straight win and Cartwright had little time for suggestions the Skilled Park factor would make up for the loss of his best four players.

"That's not going to get us home tomorrow night," he said. "We're playing against a form side, we're a little bit down on numbers and it's going to be tough," he said.

"This field out here is not going to do it for us."

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