JASON Demetriou is all that stands between Michael Maguire and the Titans coaching role, as club officials navigate a complex path towards landing a new mentor.
The Bulletin understands the race to replace Neil Henry has become a shootout between Broncos assistant Demetriou and Maguire, the man who snapped South Sydney's 43-year wait for an NRL premiership.
While 43-year-old Maguire holds the aces after his cultural rebranding of the Rabbitohs across his six seasons at the helm, Demetriou has a trail of success behind him and is the sort of new-wave coach who could recalibrate the club's current plight.
The complexity comes in the fact the NRL's sale of the Titans is delaying the process and making financial matters difficult.
Demetriou, 41, would be a cut-price option given he'd be making the jump from deputy to head coach and is eager to land a top job.
In September Maguire was sacked from his Rabbitohs post and was initially linked to Super League side Warrington, a job since taken by former Dragons boss Steve Price.
The consortium headed by former Gold Coast directors Rebecca Frizelle and Daryl Kelly will present its case for buying the club to the NRL next week and is all but certain to assume the reins of the Titans ahead of the Brisbane Bombers and North Sydney Bears bid teams.
Part of that handover process will include liaising with the Titans board and four-person selection panel over the preferred coaching candidate.
It's understood only a drastic late shift in landscape could bring fellow applicants, including Ben and Shane Walker, back into the picture.
The incoming coach will very much inherit a roster for 2018 - only 10 players are currently contracted for 2019 meaning the new boss has an opportunity to build his list.
Gold Coast chief executive Graham Annesley this week conceded there's a slight chance the delays could mean the club starts pre-season in November without a coach.
He admitted player retention and recruitment has been stalled by the club's ongoing search for a coach. Tyrone Roberts has been linked with Warrington while halfback Ash Taylor is free to negotiate with rivals after November 1.
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