Des Hasler is wasting no time in his new role as head coach of the Titans, while a key Raiders recruit is determined to force his way into the 17.
Elsewhere, the NRL’s plans for the Round 1 double-header in Las Vegas have suffered a set back.
Read on for the latest Off-season Central.
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What will Maguire bring to NSW? | 02:08
DES MAKES HALVES CALL
Veteran coach Des Hasler has quickly settled into his new life on the Gold Coast is diving straight into business at the Titans.
News Corp reports he’s made a call on his starting halves with Tanah Boyd to get the first opportunity at halfback alongside five-eighth Keiran Foran.
Boyd nailed down the No.7 jersey last season but did miss the final three games due to shoulder surgery. Youngster Tom Weaver stepped in as his replacement.
The axing of Justin Holbrook as coach could’ve posed as a threat to Boyd’s spot in the halves but Hasler has given the 23-year-old the nod.
Boyd will return to full contact training in the new year. Knowing that 20-year-old Weaver is right behind him will motivate Boyd too.
“I’ve got to come back in and show what I can do and do my job,” he said.
“I’ll be pretty focused on playing halfback, that’s what I did last year, and I want to keep getting better and take us to the finals.
“You’ve got to have depth. You look at the good sides like Penrith, it’s next man up. You’ve got to have that to be successful.
“We’ve got blokes fighting for spots everywhere. It’s good, I love it.
“It keeps me wanting to get back out there and do my best.
“It’s always healthy and me and Tommy get along well.”
Boyd, who has played 60 NRL games over five seasons, is already used to life under Hasler and believes his game will go to another level in 2024.
“I’m loving him (Hasler). He is so passionate and gets us going before training.
“His detail is unbelievable, there’s so much coaching for us. It’s been so good. I only see good things for us.
“He rides us and if you don’t perform or train well, you get told. It’s been so good and that’s what we need.
“He’s already picked up a few things with me. That’s the good thing, he lets you know straight away.
“I can’t wait to learn off him. He’s been around for a very long time and seen it all.
“I know how much I can develop under him.”
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NO RUSTY IN VEGAS
The NRL have copped a blow to their historic season-opening double-header in Las Vegas with stuperstar actor Russell Crowe unable to attend.
The Rabbitohs co-owner will be shooting a film in Budapest when his side faces the Sea Eagles in Sin City next year on March 3 AEDT.
Crowe has still been involved in the planning of the NRL’s bold bid to crack the congested US sports market and has had a face-to-face meeting with NRL executives.
But the Hollwood star confirmed this week he won’t be at the games, which are the first in a five-year plan to play the opening round in the US.
“My schedule is going to put me in Budapest, so I don’t get to go to the game in Vegas,” Crowe said on Hit Network Radio.
“I am sort of giving them a bit of help in terms of how they should be marketing things and stuff but, it might have been easier to be in on that concept at ground level, but I wasn’t.
“They have a lot of energy for it and the NRL are very confident about it so we’ll see how we go.”
The NRL are still trying to get Manly fan Hugh Jackman involved in the season opener but are struggling to lock him in.
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RAIDERS RECRUIT READY TO ROCK N ROLL
English recruit Morgan Smithies has made a huge declaration ahead of Ricky Stuart’s selection headache in the nation’s capital.
The 23-year-old arrived in Australia on Friday to join the Raiders’ pre-season, gearing up to earn a spot in the club’s starting side in 2024.
Smithies won a Super League title with Wigan last season and is now vying for a position in Canberra’s forward pack, explaining he won’t be “making up the numbers” after signing a three-year contract.
“I see myself as a number 13 but I can play back row, or anywhere really,” Smithies said to The Daily Telegraph.
“There will be a bit of competition for positions… but that makes you train harder and with that comes improvement.
“I don’t think it’s a bad thing that there is a challenge for spaces. I just have to work hard and show what I can do in the pre-season.”
Queensland forward Corey Horsburgh emerged as Stuart’s favoured option at lock last season, while Hudson Young and Elliott Whitehead are the starting backrowers.
Meanwhile, in the front row Joseph Tapine and Josh Papalii are the regular front row pairing, while Trey Mooney, Hohepa Puru and Ata Mariota will also be fighting for a spot.
That leaves Smithies to potentially ply his trade off the bench to begin the season, but the Englishmen will be desperate to stamp his mark.
Smithies also revealed he had added ball-playing to his skills in 2023, hoping to emulate Victor Radley’s skills.
“I’m adding a little bit more smarts to my game in attack, linking with halves and improving my ball playing,” Smithies said.
“It’s something I have been doing over the last few years. I always try to work hard but I want to improve my game.”
Smithies is the newest English recruit in a long line of successful imports, with Josh Hodgson, George Williams and John Bateman all playing for the Raiders over the last 10 years.