The end of the season cannot come quickly enough for the beleaguered Gold Coast Titans after a 38-4 loss to Newcastle at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday.
Leading 4-0 after as many minutes against a Knights team dealing with their own troubles, the Titans conceded seven unanswered tries to suffer their 10th straight loss.
Caretaker co-coach Craig Hodges said the 2019 wooden-spooners owed their dwindling supporter base an 80-minute effort in their last game of the season against fellow strugglers St George Illawarra at Robina next Saturday night.
“Half the competition goes on and plays finals football now, and we’ve got one game left,” Hodges told the media after the thumping in Newcastle.
“I know it doesn’t change much from what’s happened during the season but it gives us an opportunity to at least finish by giving [something to] the people who have supported us and the people who have stood beside us – and they’re thinning out quick.
“But there’s a loyal crew that are staying with us, and we’ve got to make sure we play to the 80th minute against the Dragons to give them something to at least feel good about over the summer.”
A Ryley Jacks try in the fourth minute suggested an upset was in the wind, especially after the commitment the Titans showed in their 24-8 loss to Melbourne at AAMI Park last Sunday.
“I thought probably both teams started without confidence. We’ve both had a fair bit going on, and I thought through the game we probably played Newcastle back into a little bit of form,” Hodges said.
Though they have won just four games this season, and not since stunning Brisbane 26-18 at Suncorp Stadium on June 9, Hodges has seen improvement since he and Luke Burt were handed the reins after Garth Brennan was sacked almost two months ago.
“I know it doesn’t look like it at times, but internally, we have felt like we’ve been making some progress on things that we want to make progress on,” he said.
“They’re not the parts that fans and members see, and they’re not the parts that people turn up to watch, but they’re the parts that needed to be our starting point for us as a club to build what we need to build.
“I feel like we have been making some progress on that, and quite significant in some areas, but it just wasn’t there today, absolutely.”
Hodges identified a four-minute period late in the first half as the turning point.
The Knights led 6-4 in the 29th minute when Titans centre Brian Kelly rushed off his goal-line to try to intercept a Connor Watson pass from dummy-half but he instead allowed Mitch Barnett to cross for Newcastle’s second try and a 12-4 lead.
Four minutes later, after some sharp passing created a chance down their right side, the Titans looked certain to score but Tyrone Peachey’s last pass intended for Nathan Peats was picked off by Newcastle’s Mason Lino.
After a long break to counter-attack, Lino linked with rookie Bradman Best, then Hymel Hunt finished the raid by pushing off centre Kallum Watkins to score Newcastle’s third try. Lino converted for an 18-4 lead, when it could have easily been 12-10 and the Titans receiving a Newcastle kick-off.
“When it was still a contest, we tried to go for an intercept and conceded a try, then threw an intercept and conceded a try, and just found a way to make life tough for ourselves today, so it was particularly disappointing,” Hodges said.
“I think both teams were playing without a bit of confidence at that stage, then whatever team got their opportunity, if that opportunity had have come to us and we got a try or two, I think you’d find Newcastle would have gone similar to us …
“Unfortunately for us, it didn’t go that way. It was us that wobbled and fell over, and we couldn’t get back up on our feet.”