Luke Douglas knows better than most the torment of coming up short of finals football which is why he will implore his Titans teammates to get the one win they need this weekend to ensure a top eight finish.
The prospect of Gold Coast losing their two remaining games to the Panthers and Cowboys is a very real one and would open up the door for either the Warriors or Wests Tigers to snatch eighth spot should they finish the season with successive wins.
That scenario would be an extra layer of cruelty for Douglas who in his 11th season is seeking to play in the September showcase games for just the second time.
In his second season at the Sharks in 2007 Douglas was left to rue two golden-point losses and a one-point loss to the Storm as Cronulla finished one win outside eighth spot and it was Melbourne again who scuppered his best chance of a finals berth with the Titans in 2013.
Denied a match-winner to Kevin Gordon by the video referee against the Warriors in Round 24 that season, the Titans stunned the Roosters in Round 25 with a team struck by so many injuries that special salary cap exemption was needed in order to put 17 fit players on the park.
With their finals hopes barely breathing Gold Coast headed to Melbourne needing a win in Round 26 to have a shot at extending their season into September and again were left heartbroken by the video referees who over-turned the on-field decision and denied a try to five-eighth Aidan Sezer.
The match went into golden point extra time and the Titans' season was ultimately brought to an end by a 41-metre field goal by Cooper Cronk eight minutes into added time.
"It was definitely a sombre old feeling, getting on the bus away from home," Douglas recalled of the aftermath of that night three years ago at AAMI Park.
"In your head you're planning and hoping and working to make that eight and to let it slip late is devastating.
"I've been in the position a few times in my career where I've just missed out. I've had a lot of ninths and 10ths and that sort of thing and it definitely hurts.
"As an older guy, I look back now and think about the great teams I've played in and wonder how the hell we haven't played in more finals.
"When I'm finished playing it's something I'm going to kick myself over, why we didn't make it."
The Cowboys won their last six games of the regular season to finish eighth in 2013 but this year the Titans very much have their destiny in their own hands.
If they can knock over either the Panthers or Cowboys in the final two weeks of the season the wooden spoon favourites at the start of the year will thoroughly deserve their place in the finals and, more than that, Douglas believes they can go well beyond week one.
The 30-year-old's mind remains very much focused on what needs to happen to get the better of Penrith and avoid any Round 26 nightmares but Douglas has been around long enough to know that there is a special kind of something brewing in this particular Titans team.
"We don't want to get ahead of ourselves, we've still got to make it there but we've got the players and the team that could do something special," said Douglas, whose only previous finals experience came with Cronulla in 2008.
"We could knock over any team on our day. We've got to get there first though and that starts this weekend.
"I know there's a fair bit of feeling amongst the team that we could do something all right, even though the bookies were saying we were no hope.
"We've been able to play some pretty good footy throughout the year and we're making it hard for teams to game-plan against us.
"If they want to shoot up and in, we can play through the forwards and get over the stripe; if they want to do something else in defence we've got the ability out wide with Jarryd [Hayne] and Koni (Konrad Hurrell) and 'Boog' (Anthony Don) and Nene [Macdonald].
"I've only made the finals series once in my career and if we can put in a really good performance against the Panthers and sneak over the line we'll cement our spot in the eight.
"Really big opportunity and I'll be stressing that to all the young guys who haven't been in this situation before. I'm hanging out for it and hopefully we can get there.
"I just don't want to let this opportunity go."
This article first appeared on NRL.com
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