They were the bookies wooden spoon favourites pre-season following the exodus of a number of key players, with even the most respected rugby league authorities writing off Neil Henry’s charges when talented halfback Kane Elgey slumped to the ground at training on the first day of pre-season training, what was supposed to be a break-out NRL season officially over long before the premiership points chase had begun.
Despite the setbacks and disappointments, the 2016 squad play every minute like it’s their last, with foundation with Titans player Mat Rogers impressed with the spirit and camaraderie within the team.
“Well it’s been impressive to be honest, everyone sort of came in with great hopes and expectations, but you never know, it’s not been a great last few years but they are building and until you actually see the results on the field it’s hard to sort of get too excited at this stage but we have seen that now and I think everyone is starting to get a little bit sort of anxious and excited about the finals that are just around the corner, I’m just hoping that we can get there “
Currently seventh on the premiership ladder and on the verge of contesting their first finals series since 2010, the Titans with their mix of hardnosed journeymen and exciting youngsters have been one of the seasons good news stories, surprising most and more than impressing their passionate and patient supporters including Rogers who believes the club has the ability to give the finals series a real shake.
“There is a lot of belief in the side, you can feel it, just being around it. There is just something about a football side that believes in themselves and just last week I was down on the bench and you can feel it, there is something amongst this group that they think they have got something special and I think that’s showing in some of the results they have had this year”
“When you have got the likes of an Ash Taylor who is just growing in confidence game by game, you have got guys like Agnatius Paasi, you have got guys like Zeb Taia who has come back from overseas and he looks to have found a second wind in his career, he’s just playing fantastic football, I love watching him play, and I think the younger guys are feeding off that sort of enthusiasm “
The Titans will need to muster every ounce of that character this Monday night, the team at home to the table topping Cronulla Sharks, but once again Mat, who proudly represented the Southerland Shire on 123 occasions prior to pulling on a Titans jersey in 2007 believes the home side have the ability to end Cronulla’s record winning streak.
“They have definitely been the form side this year and they have been a really great team to watch, I’ve got to say though, the last two games, they looked pretty tired against the Roosters and they were pretty scrappy on the weekend against Newcastle so I think if anyone is going to beat them, we have got an inform Titans side that are rocking and rolling right now, so let’s hope that it’s best foot forward this weekend and we come away with a win”
“I look at that Sharks team and they have strike power all over the field, you know if they aren’t doing it up the middle, they are doing it out wide and their halves are really controlling the play really well, I think Jimmy Maloney is going to come back pretty fresh after a week off”
Mat could be forgiven for having a foot in each camp this weekend, his late father Steve ran out for the Sharks on 2002 occasions and was announced as one of five “Immortals” of the club following his retirement, while Mat’s son Jack is currently a third generation Sharks representative, playing his trade with the clubs Holden Cup team.
“Someone said to me, who do you support? I said to you have kids? And they said yeah and I said which one do you love the most? It’s sort of like that, you know. I love them both, it’s a real win, win weekend for me this weekend and it always is when Cronulla play the Titans, I love them both dearly and I would love to see them both succeed, unfortunately there can only be one winner, I’ll take either but I’m here on the Gold Coast, working for the Titans so let’s bring home a Titans victory”
The Titans festival of Footy promotion continues this weekend with special ticket offers and additional fan entertainment available for those attending Monday night’s match, with Rogers saying the Titans players have certainly noticed the growing groundswell of support for the team in recent weeks.
“I spoke to Josh Hoffman after the game last week and he looked around the stadium and he said hopefully we get a turn out like this again next weekend, it makes a difference to have the fans out there supporting and cheering on and there was just a lot more belief in the crowd, enjoyment in the crowd and they can sense something as well, that feeds the players it really does, so if you are a fan, get out there, support them, they need you”
Festival of Footy Tickets can be purchased online through Ticketek.