Gold Coast skipper Ryan James says his frustration with refereeing decisions and his own team's errors in Sunday's 20-12 loss to the Sydney Roosters at Cbus Super Stadium presented probably his toughest challenge as the team's captain.
James remonstrated with referees Jon Stone and Chris Butler several times during the game as several key calls went against his side. He was warned to keep his emotion in check, which he did on each occasion and marched back into play.
An unflappable character off the field who had worked hard to cut errors that cause penalties from his game, James admitted "it got to the stage that I was so angry I nearly cried".
Yet it was a tough lesson on how to make a stand, yet not let it take over his thinking.
It was not just what the Titans felt were some tough refereeing calls, they were their own worst enemies by making fundamental errors – dropping the ball in their own half, failing to build any sustained pressure in the first half and, after being penalised three times for ruck offenses, having Will Matthews sin-binned for a flop.
"I was too emotionally involved," James admitted after the controversial call to award Roosters halfback Sean O'Sullivan a try. He marched up to referee Stone and said: "Even the player knew he knocked on. How could you give that a try?"
Match Highlights: Titans v Roosters - Round 18; 2018
"It's tough because you've got 12 blokes (his teammates) looking at you, looking for answers," he said. "And I'm looking for answers as well.
"I just had to stop talking to him (Stone) and walk away because I know you're not going to win in that situation and the refs are always right.
"Tonight I was more frustrated than probably ever before because so many 50-50s didn't go our way.
"It's a learning experience, and I know we have to shake it off and not let it frustrate us. It probably did a bit tonight although we stuck at it pretty well."
"We have to handle some setback better than what we do," added coach Garth Brennan.
"When things go against us it hurts us at times and consistency is something we're lacking but they are kids. The more the get exposed to that the better they will be going forward."
Brennan left seething after controversial loss
The Titans fielded a side that included debutant Jai Whitbread, the 20-year-old former Broncos under-20s player, 18-year-old fellow prop Moeaki Fotuaika, who outstanding in the first half and scored his first NRL try, 19-year-old AJ Brimson and 20-year-old Phillip Sami against a Roosters side that also had plenty of youth in its team.
James was particularly pleased that local junior Whitbread, who has battled injury this season, was given his debut. Their fathers – Kevin James and former Bulldogs and Gold Coast Giants foundation player Greg Whitbread – played together in local football.
Whitbread became the second Gold Coast father and son to play first grade behind Robert and Ryan Simpkins.