Titans NRL coach welcomes Origin headache - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Titans NRL coach welcomes Origin headache

Laine Clark 07/05/2011 04:22:30 PM Comments (0)

Unlike their rivals the New Zealand Warriors, Gold Coast Titans coach John Cartwright won't be losing much sleep over the representative season's toll on his side ahead of Sunday's NRL clash.

But Cartwright is expecting all that to change come Origin time.

Due to a disappointing three-five season start, only one Titans player was on rep duty on Friday night - and he was nowhere near Australia's 20-10 trans-Tasman Test win over New Zealand at the Gold Coast's Skilled Park.

Backrower Mark Minichiello has "pulled up well" after chiming into City's narrow loss to Country in the NSW Origin selection trial at Albury, but is not expected to back up against the Warriors on Sunday.

Yet Cartwright firmly believes the usually high-flying Gold Coast will turn it around to ensure players are in demand for Origin.

And he expects incumbent Queensland lock Ashley Harrison to be the first picked - despite the form of Cowboys No.13 Dallas Johnson - along with utility Greg Bird, as NSW selectors deliberate over a pivot.

As NSW coach Ricky Stuart's deputy in 2011, Cartwright's backing of Bird might provide a timely insight as the Blues sweated on the five-eighth role after Jamie Soward (groin/thumb) was injured in the City-Country trial.

"I would be surprised if we don't lose a few to State of Origin," Cartwright said on Saturday.

"I would say Ashley Harrison would be a shoo-in for Origin and Greg Bird is very close for NSW. I would be surprised if he was not in the NSW side."

Asked about Bird's Blues pivot chances after Soward's injury, Cartwright said: "I am more worried about the Titans but, if Birdy is playing well, NSW are going to benefit from that as well as us."

Cartwright claimed Minichiello would be given until the last minute to prove his fitness but Titans captain Scott Prince was not so sure.

"We will have to wait and see if he takes the field but, by all reports, I don't think he will be lining up tomorrow," he said on Saturday.

In contrast, Warriors coach Ivan Cleary is worrying about the make-up of his side with five players on Kiwi duty - club captain Simon Mannering, Lance Hohaia, Sam Rapira, Ben Matulino and Lewis Brown.

While Warriors officials claimed their availability would not be confirmed until an hour before kick-off, Rapira was considered a no-show after dislocating his thumb in the opening minutes against Australia.

Then there is the temptation of injecting hulking winger Manu Vatuvei, included in an extended squad based in Australia, in preparation for clashes against the Titans and Newcastle on Sunday week.

Vatuvei (knee) has been sidelined since the opening round.

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