Defensive woes cost Titans in 2021
The future at the Gold Coast Titans looks promising, even if their season has been brought to a dramatic end by the Sydney Roosters in week one of the NRL finals.
After sneaking into the top eight by the skin of their teeth, a late Sam Walker field goal ended the young Gold Coast's 2021 season at Queensland Country Bank Stadium.
A final-minute break by one of the Titan's green shoot youngsters in Beau Fermor set the scene for an unlikely upset, but Patrick Herbert's offload found touch in the dying seconds to seal their fate, going down 25-24.
Ironically, it was their attack that brought their season to an end, after bearing fruit for them all year long.
Through young representative forwards like Tino Fa'asuamaleaui, David Fifita and Moeaki Fotuaika, Gold Coast have threatened the competition's elite with their power and damaging ball running.
But a poor defensive record meant they entered the finals series with just 10 wins from 24 and a hairs breadth from missing out on a postseason for a second year in a row.
While averaging 24 points per game - the 6th-best attack in the competition - they still ended with a negative for and against after 25 rounds and then fell short of a first finals win since 2010.
"We've been doing a lot of learning as the years gone on, I thought we'd learnt enough to take better options in certain circumstances and we didn't tonight," a devastated Titans coach Justin Holbrook said after the game.
"Massive learning curve, I mean there's no harder learning curve than ending your season by a point.
"Big driving force for next year, we've got to get better and win those games."
But from their Saturday evening misery comes hope for Holbrook's side.
Fullback Jayden Campbell, 21, playing in just his seventh NRL game proved he's an emerging star, and will contest the No.1 jumper in 2022.
Injured teammate and first choice fullback AJ Brimson looks likely to slot into the halves alongside Jamal Fogarty, with Ash Taylor set to depart the club.
Million dollar man David Fifita scored 17 tries, the most in a season for the club, and at just 21 years of age willed them to their first finals appearance in five years.
And in Fa'asuamaleaui, Fermor and Foutaika, their ferocity in midfield and development this year should see them go into 2022 brimming with confidence.
Dealt a tough lesson on Saturday night in Townsville, exciting times await the Titans as they come to terms with what could've been in 2021.
© AAP 2021