Having carried Gold Coast on his young shoulders through a challenging first NRL campaign as captain, Titans coach Justin Holbrook wants Tino Fa’asuamaleaui’s teammates to step up to their skipper’s standards.
The Titans will aim to make it back-to-back home wins for the first time since round four when they host Newcastle at CBUS Super Stadium on Sunday.
The last time Gold Coast played at their home ground they snapped a 10-game losing run against Manly without the talismanic Fa’asuamaleaui, who was attending the birth of his and partner Jordan’s second child.
The Queensland State of Origin representative returned for last week’s trip to Wollongong to face St George Illawarra as the Titans slumped to a 20-point defeat despite the second-half sending off of Dragon Francis Molo.
It means Fa’asuamaleaui hasn’t tasted victory at club level since early May, though it’s certainly not for a lack of effort on his behalf in the eyes of Holbrook.
“The blame’s not getting pointed in his direction, I think we all know that,” Holbrook said.
“He probably tries too hard at times. It’s been a big learning curve for us all and him included and he’ll be better for it.
“It comes back to our halves really running the game when it’s happening and he just playing it.
“He’s tremendous. He’s our best leader by a mile Tino. If you see him from Monday to game day he’s exceptional, and then once we kick off there’s got to be more emphasis placed on the key guys in the halves.
“We’ll keep working on that but for Tino, we know how good he is and he’s terrific for us.”
Having missed the win over the Sea Eagles, Fa’asuamaleaui is itching to taste success on the field himself particularly against a Knights team which embarrassed the Titans 38-12 in the teams’ earlier clash this year at McDonald Jones Stadium.
“We’ve got to take that personally because that was a very embarrassing game for the club and for myself,” Fa’asuamaleaui said.
“We’ve got to come out here on the weekend and make sure that we’re not letting that happen again.”
Holbrook has made several changes from the team which lost to the Dragons with Klese Haas, the younger brother of Broncos prop Payne, to debut from the interchange bench while Brian Kelly returns to take injured Patrick Herbert’s (knee) spot in the centres.
Newcastle have Tyson Frizell (ribs) and Daniel Saifiti (COVID-19) back in a huge boost to their pack as they look to bounce back from losing to Canberra last weekend despite being 22-8 up at half-time.