“Accentuate the Positive” is a decades-old song that has another meaning for Aquis Titans coach Neil Henry in the build-up to Saturday’s meeting with the Newcastle Knights at Hunter Stadium.
There are statistics for everything in the NRL and it’s easy to be hoodwinked by numbers of line breaks, tackle busts, offloads, run metres and anything else you want to put a number to.
For Henry, the numbers that truly matter are those which reflect whether his team has been able to accentuate the positives and eliminate the negatives.
Or, specifically, maximise your kick positives and minimise defensive negatives.
“Kick positives mean how good your kick is, and where you start your defensive set from,” Henry said.
“You want to start your defence from as close to their goal line as possible.”
Defensive negatives are any errors – missed tackles for example – that deflate the air from defensive pressure and allow opponents to get on a roll.
As unsexy as that might sound, those are the two stats that appeal to the head coach and indicate attitude, effort and discipline.
“History tells us that the best two defensive sides have reached the grand final every year since 2006,” Henry said.
“That doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve been the best defensive teams all year. But it means they have got on a roll with it through the finals series.”
With the ball, the Titans’ other priority this week has been creating more from all the possession available to them.
Gold Coast’s completion rate has been a strength this season.
The Titans are one of the competition leaders for controlling possession, completing about 80 per cent of their sets.
As they prepare for the Knights, Henry wants more from his troops than just control.
“It doesn’t just matter how many sets you get, it’s the quality of what you do with that ball,” he said.
The Titans and Knights each boast some shrewd operators in that regard.
Jarrod Mullen’s return to the halves over the past month has injected a second threat beside halfback Trent Hodkinson.
And the Titans should be delighted with the developing partnership between Ashley Taylor and Jarryd Hayne.
Hayne’s performances at five-eighth have understandably been analysed at length but, along with Taylor, the pair are making good decisions and forcing defenders into poor ones.
Josh Hoffman’s duel in the centres with Maroons star Dane Gagai is another possible tipping point.
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