Titans’ worrying admission over AJ fractures
The Gold Coast Titans are unsure when fullback AJ Brimson will be cleared to play after the rising star was ruled out of Friday's Round 1 NRL clash against Canberra with a back injury.
Brimson is managing a stress fracture in his back, with Titans head of performance and culture Mal Meninga admitting the young gun was a "week-to-week proposition".
Prop Shannon Boyd (shoulder) has also been ruled out of the game against his former club, while reigning player-of-the-year Moeaki Fotuaika (knee) was named on an extended bench.
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If Fotuaika is ruled out, Newtown Jets premiership hero Jaimin Jolliffe will make his NRL debut, while Warriors recruit Sam Lisone will play his first game for the Titans.
Winger Phillip Sami will shift to fullback in place of Brimson, whose back problem flared after last month's Nines tournament in Perth.
Brimson, 21, was on track to have a big season for the Titans in the No.1 jersey, but Meninga said the club was not sure when he would be cleared to play.
"He is a week-to-week proposition at the moment," he said.
"He is not quite where he wants to be. It's a back injury and he's got to be careful.
"It's only Round 1, he's got a little stress fracture so we've got to make sure he gets it right before he comes back and plays.
"We all know how valuable a player he is, so we've got to look after him.
"Little stress fractures can take a while to heal.
"I'm not sure if it's going to heal properly before he comes back and plays, so it's about managing it throughout the course of the year.
"The doctor has been really good, he understands how to get him back on the footy field.
"It's not to be for AJ in Round 1, so we'll take it week-to-week."
Brimson said his back had shown signs of improvement but it was still not 100 per cent.
"I injured it at the Nines, there's been a lot of stress throughout the pre-season and bone bruising and swelling around my lower back," he said.
"I'm not doing any contact. It's feeling pretty pain-free but little things in the morning like getting out of bed (are painful). Once it's warm it's okay.
"They're monitoring it because they don't want it to get any worse."
The unavailability of Brimson, Boyd and potentially Fotuaika is a blow for new Titans coach Justin Holbrook ahead of his first NRL game in charge.
After claiming last year's wooden spoon, the Titans have shown promising signs in the pre-season and will start their 2020 campaign against last year's beaten grand finalists in Canberra.
Holbrook has rewarded utility Tyrone Peachey with a starting berth in the centres following an impressive pre-season, shifting Brian Kelly to the bench.
Veteran rake Mitch Rein has won the No.9 jersey, with former NSW Origin hooker Nathan Peats relegated to the bench.
The club had to seek a salary cap exemption to play Jolliffe following injuries to props Ryan James (knee), Boyd and Fotuaika.
Jolliffe only last week signed a development contract with the Titans following a strong pre-season on a train-and-trial deal.
GOLD COAST TITANS: 1 Phillip Sami, 2 Anthony Don, 3 Kallum Watkins, 4 Tyrone Peachey, 5 Dale Copley, 6 Tyrone Roberts, 7 Ash Taylor, 8 Jarrod Wallace, 9 Mitch Rein, 10 Sam Lisone, 11 Kevin Proctor (c), 12 Bryce Cartwright, 13 Jai Arrow, 14 Nathan Peats, 15 Jai Whitbread, 16 Brian Kelly, 17 Jaimin Jolliffe, 18 Sam Stone, 19 Jonus Pearson, 20 Moeaki Fotuaika, 21 AJ Brimson.