Goodbye JT, welcome AJ
GOODBYE JT and welcome AJ.
The NRL farewelled a superstar and potentially welcomed another as Titans rookie AJ Brimson shone in Johnathan Thurston's farewell finale on the Gold Coast.
The Cowboys celebrated Thurston's 323rd and final NRL game in style with a thrilling 30-26 comeback victory in front of a sold out crowd of 26,681 at Cbus Super Stadium.
North Queensland fought back from a 18-6 halftime deficit to send their champion halfback out a winner and the Gold Coast's early lead had a lot to do with Brimsom.
The 19-year-old fullback was electric in just his 15th NRL game, scoring the first try and bringing down a rampaging Jason Taumalolo to deny the Cowboys.
The contrast between Brimson and Thurston could not be any more stark.
Brimson rounded out an incredibly promising first season while the 35-year-old Thurston played the final game of his 17-season career.
It was the ultimate changing of the guard as one Queensland legend departed and a rising star of the state took another step forward despite carrying serious injuries.
"He dislocated his shoulder in last week's game but wanted to play," Titans coach Garth Brennan said of Brimson.
"He has a fracture in his hand but he said 'you're not stopping me'.
"He is one tough kid. There is a lot of character in this team."
The big stage and a pro-Cowboys crowd didn't faze Brimson when he burst through a gap to score the first try after seven minutes, ruining the planned tribute to Thurston where the crowd rose to their feet to applaud the champion halfback.
Manly-bound five-eighth Kane Elgey had a nice moment in his 46th and final game for the Titans when he scored to give the Titans a 12-0 lead.
When Mitch Rein scored just before halftime, the Titans looked to be on track to upset Thurston's farewell party.
However the Cowboys had other ideas, fighting back in the second half with four straight tries to hit the lead for the first time in the 70th minute despite Brimson's best defensive efforts at the back.
The Titans had the potential to play finals football in 2018 after an impressive start, but their defence simply wasn't up to the task.
The Gold Coast finished the season conceding 582 points, 219 more than possible minor premiers and defensive specialists Melbourne (363).
"I sound like a broken record," Brennan said.
"We're competing against some really good sides but not for the 80 minutes unfortunately.
"Our defence has been criticised but they had to challenge us.
"We never gave up. We scored the last try. We kept coming."
The Titans will drop to 15th spot on the ladder if Manly beat the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium, the same position they finished the 2017 season in as coach Neil Henry was sacked.
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