By STEVE MASCORD
WESTS Tigers coach Michael Potter says he will take the plunge following yesterday’s mauling by Gold Coast and apply for special salary cap dispensation for wunderkind Luke Brooks to play first grade.
Potter’s dismal first season at the joint venture continued on Sunday with a 36-6 loss to a depleted Gold Coast team that is clinging to the faintest of hopes that it can still qualify for the finals series.
National Rugby League officials were criticised last week for being inflexible over the opportunity for Wests Tigers under 20s halves Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks to be blooded in first grade before the end of the season.
But the NRL said there had been no application from the club for the necessary second team salary cap exemption. There will be now.
“We’ll have a talk amongst the coaching staff and then have a talk to the NRL about it,” Potter told Fairfax Media after the six tries-to-one defeat.
“Mitchell is still pretty skinny but Luke … we’ll have a talk to them and see what they say. I don’t know what the answer will be but we’ll ask.”
With Wests Tigers running second last heading towards the final month of the season, Potter conceded that some other tough selection choices may be lying in wait for him.
Departing superstar Benji Marshall’s place in the team would have been called into question had Moses also been called up but this does not appear likely now.
“We’ll sit down and discuss a few things,” Potter said. “There won’t be mass changes but we need to pick the right side.
“You’ve got nothing but pride to play for … for the fans and to show (them) there is some will to win within the group. There’ll be some players there today that will be disappointed with their performance.
“What’s disappointing is I thought the other team were just far, far more desperate than us to get the two points. They needed to get two points and it showed out there.”
Not one Wests Tigers player carried the ball for more than 100 metres, although the loss of skipper Robbie Farah in the first half with a dislocated knuckle was a mitigating factor.
“In the end, he was in too much pain,” said Potter. “It wasn’t worth bringing him back on.”
After some intial resistance, Gold Coast steam-rolled to victory despite missing Albert Kelly, Jamal Idris, Luke Bailey, Matt Srama and William Zillman.
The Titans struggled somewhat to put their opponents away in the second half, failing to add to their total until the 68th minute. But then they added two more touchdowns.
Potter said a newspaper story last week criticising the contribution of Titans international Dave Taylor had only served to fire up the 122kg giant. Taylor scored a blockbusting 38th minute try which gave his side its 24-6 halftime lead.
Gold Coast benefited from Greg Bird being moved closer to the action to the centre of the field, where he plays in State of Origin. “He was squealing after 20 minutes,” captain Nate Myles joked.
Like north-of-the-border compatriots North Queensland and Brisbane, the Titans need to win all their remaining games to have a hope of making the finals. But they were upbeat after at least being handed a glimmer of hope by ending a four-match losing streak.
“It’s been a long hard month and we needed that win for our confidence,” said prop Myles.
Cartwright added: “Whilst we’re out of the eight, it’s still in our hands.”
GOLD COAST 36 (J Dowling D Mead B Takarangi D Taylor L O’Dwyer tries A Sezer 6 goal) bt WESTS TIGERS 6 (L Fulton try B Marshall goal) at Skilled Park. Referees: G Badger/A Shortall. Crowd: 11,731.
Filed for: SYDNEY MORNING HERALD