The Aquis Titans can move to two points behind eighth spot on the competition ladder with victory against last-placed Newcastle Knights at Hunter Stadium today.
But the equation if the team loses today should also be a motivating factor – it could leave them last on the ladder.
With Greg Bird back in the side for the first time since round eight when the Titans had won three in a row and four out of five games, and hooker Beau Falloon in the starting line with him for the first time since that match too, the side knows what is on the line.
Coach Neil Henry has gone for seniority and experience in the starting pack and thrown down the challenge to the senior players who admit they were off the pace against Manly on Monday night in aggression and energy.
“With Birdy back and Beau having made a successful return on Monday night, their experience will be invaluable for our younger players,” said coach Neil Henry.
“Their presence gives us probably our strongest starting pack – Myles, Falloon, Douglas, James, Taylor, Bird - for the first time since round four when we beat the Sharks and only the third time this season.
“It’s a challenge to those experienced men to get us off to a better start than we had against the Knights when we coughed up too much early possession. A look at the Newcastle pack shows they are quite formidable too with Kade Snowden, Tyler Randell, Korbin Sims, Beau Scott, Tariq Sims and Jeremy Smith.
“We need a good start to build us some momentum and set a platform and when we have done that this season we have performed well.
“While Birdy’s presence is obviously going to be a big lift for the team, the other players can’t sit back and think he is going to be an automatic catalyst for an improved performance.
“They have to lift around him, and play their roles and make his return easier for him. While he has been training hard and champing at the bit to get back after 10 weeks out since the Anzac Test, he’s going to lack match fitness and the other players have to lift and support him.”
The weather forecast is for overcast conditions and possible rain with a big southerly blowing down the stadium, so the Titans’ kicking game will have to improve, but it is defensive attitude from the team that has conceded more points than anyone in 2015 that will be the key.
The Titans will be out to avenge the 20-18 loss at Cbus Super Stadium in round three when Joe Leuluai scored from what appeared a clear knock on but was ruled a knock back on the night, only for referees boss Tony Archer to later admit the ruling was wrong.
The Knights have won only two matches since, while the Titans began its winning streak the next week against Cronulla before injuries in the key positions of the halves, hooker and fullback intervened. This is the match when another winning streak could begin.
HEAD TO HEAD
Played 13; Knights 8, Titans 5.
At Hunter Stadium: Played 7; Knights 4, Titans 3.
TRIES SCORED: Titans 55, Knights 52.
TRIES CONCEDED: Titans 71, Knights 69.
COMPLETION RATES: Titans 71%, Knights 75%.
GOALKICKING: Titans 76%, Knights 81%.