Douglas: Finals spot must be earned
He grew up a Sharks fan and then made his name in the Shire but Titans forward Luke Douglas says the chance to end Cronulla's record winning streak is one his team should openly embrace.
Sitting in seventh position on the ladder following Saturday night's 34-14 win over the Eels, the next assignment for the Titans is a Sharks team that has compiled a for-and-against of 435-230 in winning 15 games in succession from Round 4 through until Sunday's comprehensive Round 20 win over the Knights.
The 36-4 win again vaulted Cronulla to the top of the Telstra Premiership and while Douglas has a great deal of respect for the record they are currently compiling, he doesn't view it as a game that the Titans have no chance of winning even though the Sharks have triumphed on their two most recent trips to Cbus Super Stadium.
The 30-year-old played 146 games in a row for the Sharks after making his debut in 2006 and said taking on the competition leaders at home on a Monday night is the perfect opportunity for the Titans to make a finals statement.
"If we want to compete against the best we've got to perform on the big stage and that's teams like the Sharks," Douglas said.
"They're a quality outfit, they're not coming first for no reason so it's a big test for us and a good opportunity to try and break that streak because it's a pretty significant record they're building.
"I keep a pretty close eye [on the Sharks] and they're pretty good all over the park and the majority of the blokes are in pretty good form.
"It's a matter of working hard in defence, being patient, building pressure because they've got strike-power everywhere."
Now in his 11th season in the NRL Douglas has only once appeared in a finals series, playing in two finals matches for the Sharks in 2008.
After more than 100 games for the Titans he is desperate to take Gold Coast into September for the first time since 2010 and will be urging the squad's younger players not to waste the opportunity that is now before them.
"I've been in the game for 11 years now and the opportunities don't come around too much," said Douglas, who ran for 107 metres and made 30 tackles in 48 minutes against Parramatta.
"I haven't spoken up enough. We've got a fairly young crew who have to realise that you're not going to make the finals every year.
"It doesn't come around too often so when you're in these types of positions you've got to work hard for everything you get and take nothing for granted.
"Now that we've given ourselves a sniff it's really important that we keep working at it.
"I think we've been playing our best footy over the last few weeks when we're patient and building pressure, not trying to score off every play.
"We're not in the best position but we're giving ourselves every chance. It's in our own hands. We've got to fight to stay in and keep performing well. Our for-and-against is not too bad so we've got to work hard to get those tight wins and push forward."
Losses by the Warriors and the Dragons over the weekend have allowed the Titans and Panthers to create a two-point buffer ahead of those teams just outside the top eight and coach Neil Henry said their finals destiny is now very much in their hands.
"It's up to us now to take that opportunity each week to stay where we are," Henry said.
"Everyone's surprised about our performances but we're not surprised, we work very hard.
"We've handled a bit of adversity losing a halfback before the season started, we've got a few injuries and our new recruits were very good [against the Eels].
"We're all in it together and we'll just keep pushing the standards."
This story first appeared on nrl.com.au
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