Nene seeks improved input
It was a win for the entire nation to revel in but the Titans may yet prove to be the beneficiaries of Papua New Guinea's Pacific Test win over Fiji with Nene Macdonald coming back to the NRL a different player.
Physically gifted beyond most players' wildest dreams Macdonald has been accused in his fledgling NRL career of lacking the work ethic to make best use of his talents but Titans teammates have seen a significant change of late.
In their past two wins against the Panthers and Rabbitohs Macdonald has not only been asserting himself in attack but has taken on greater responsibility for starting his team's sets on the right note from back-field.
Early in the season Macdonald was compared to the Titanic in turning to chase kicks and bring the ball back on kick returns but having spent a week in camp with the Kumuls has vowed to take on more responsibility for the team's performance.
"I always learn a bit in those camps but after that game I knew I had to pick up my game and hopefully step up another level," Macdonald told NRL.com ahead of Saturday's clash with the Eels in Darwin.
"I just needed to be more of a leader now. I'm not so much a young player any more, I've got to step up and help lead the team, especially when we're getting those kick returns and making sure that I'm doing my part for the team.
"With 'Meady' (David Mead) being [Kumuls] captain and with me being close with him just helping him out and being there for him.
"Most of the boys aren't in an NRL system so we've got to set an example for them and I wanted to be a bit more professional. They all look up to us and they have a lot of respect for us and each other."
Indeed, Mead was quick to praise Macdonald for his conduct in camp when he returned to the Gold Coast following their upset 24-22 win.
"Players in PNG really look up to him and what he is achieving and he knew he could have an influence on them," Mead said.
"He really stepped out of his comfort zone and was pretty vocal, which is not something he does at the Titans."
With a towering take and clever offload two minutes from full-time Macdonald laid on a try for Titans left centre Josh Hoffman against the Rabbitohs and the pair are developing a potent combination.
Hoffman and Macdonald are also roommates on the Titans' 10-day cross-country excursion and the more senior member of the duo has also noticed a significant change in Macdonald's approach to the game.
"It was a bit of a slow start for Nene just with trying to maintain his weight and all that sort of stuff off the field and on the field as well it was affecting him a little bit," Hoffman said.
"After coming back from playing the Test for PNG he has really shone and come back in the right frame of mind.
"He's really looking after his body, looking after himself and rooming with him this week I can see that he's really turned a new leaf.
"His approach into each game has changed and he's really turned into a professional NRL player.
"Our big boys in the middle they can sense it as well. When Nene is playing his best footy and he's getting us forward he sets the platform for them and gets us on the front foot.
"If he can do that this weekend that will be a big plus."
This story first appeared on nrl.com.au