Gold Training NYC Holden Cup coach Ben Woolf has resigned himself to more heart flutters as his side continues to walk a tightrope towards the finals.
The young Titans sit 11th, two wins outside the top eight, ahead of Saturday’s clash with the 10th-placed Newcastle Knights.
They have kept their campaign alive with consecutive two-point victories against the Warriors and Tigers, both nerve-wracking results that were not determined until the final minutes.
Gold Coast slipped behind 22-6 early against the Tigers but fought back and held their nerve at the death while the hosts were on the charge.
“It’s been a bit stressful but I’ll take it,” Woolf said of his cardiac kids.
While the slim margins would have done little for Woolf’s blood pressure, the tension of close matches an important part of the players’ development.
Nailbiters are a cut-throat way to make the players realise the gravity of their critical position on the ladder.
They are also learning to better execute their skills under pressure and extreme fatigue.
“That’s the nature of under-20s. They’re still learning their trade defensively so you can see a lot of close, high-scoring games,” Woolf said.
“It can take months to learn how to close out games under fatigue.
“And they’re not doing themselves any favours defensively. We conceded six line breaks in the first 20 minutes against the Tigers.”
The Titans are conscious of the drain on the players of having to fight for their slim finals hopes – without a lifeline – each week.
“It does weigh on them a little, but at the end of the day that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” the coach said.
“They’re aware of the situation. It makes them realise the importance of games and a reason to find that extra effort.”
Forwards Max King (ankle) and Kurt Bernard (rib) are expected to overcome niggles in time to face the Knights at Hunter Stadium.
John Olive’s retention in the under-20s backline is a major plus for the NYC side.
The big centre has NRL experience and was a two-try contributor against the Tigers.
“He’s extremely handy. He’s in the NRL squad so he only had one session with us last week and showed a lot of leadership,” Woolf said.
To see our Rd 24 NYC team announcement CLICK HERE.