Veteran fullback Michael Gordon has urged his Titans teammates not to let five minutes of missed opportunities sabotage the start to their season as they prepare to face the undefeated Rabbitohs.
Desperate to bounce back after a 21-0 loss to the Raiders in round one, the Titans produced a near-flawless opening five minutes against the Sharks that yielded two try-scoring opportunities yet which failed to transfer to the scoreboard.
Radio and TV commentators alike were both convinced captain Ryan James had crossed just past the two-minute mark only for the video referee to overturn the on-field decision of "try", citing a knock-on as James gathered possession just short of the line.
Three minutes later after a second defensive set that put the Sharks under pressure, Jai Arrow surged across the Cronulla line, again the referee sending it for review indicating he thought it was a try despite the best efforts of Matt Prior to stop the ball from getting to ground.
The Titans’ desperate search for a shot of confidence copped another major blow when it was also disallowed.
Then their left edge was exposed horribly in a 10-minute period in which the Sharks scored three tries midway through the first half and any positivity from the start to the game was gone as the Titans headed for the sheds at half-time trailing 20-0.
After 138 minutes of season 2019 the Titans finally crossed for their first try of the year courtesy of Brenko Lee but by that time the result was well out of reach.
In his 14 seasons in the Telstra Premiership, Gordon has played finals football with the Panthers, Sharks and Roosters and knows a winning culture often comes after fighting through adversity.
“The good teams are the ones that win even when they might not be playing their best. They hang in there and somehow find a way to win,” Gordon told NRL.com.
“You can sit there and have meetings and talk about it and plan for it as much as you want but it all comes down to the heat of the battle.
“If you win a few games that you weren’t meant to or you come back and win, all of a sudden there’s this belief that comes over the team.
“It’s more of a calmness. It’s not someone coming out and yelling and screaming, it’s more an attitude of hanging in and digging in when times are tough. Things will change and momentum will turn.
“There’s no exact winning formula that you follow to become a great team; if there was everyone would be doing it.”
Generating confidence in a team struggling for belief is just as mysterious as any winning formula.
“We’re a team hoping we can win rather than actually believing we can win the football match,” coach Garth Brennan said.
“The boys need to start getting some belief in how hard they are working and some of the stuff that’s coming off. We’re getting close, just not close enough.
“We can turn it around, there’s no doubt about that. Rugby league’s a funny old game. Confidence disappears without you knowing and comes back just as quick.
“We’ll keep putting ourselves in the position to win games and to do that we’ve just got to start believing we can win. Four times over the line and not capitalising, that’s something that the boys can take some belief out of.”
Brennan refused to discuss the contentiousness of the decisions in his post-match press conference, conceding that the Titans have to roll with the punches better.
“You’ve got to deal with that. You’re going to get things go against you at times in games and we’ve got to have better resolve than what we showed,” he said.