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As the only Queensland club to make the 2010 NRL finals, the Gold Coast Titans will be carrying the hopes of an entire state when they take on the New Zealand Warriors in Friday night’s Qualifying Final at Robina.

The Titans are brimming with confidence coming into the home final, finishing the regular season in fourth spot on the ladder after a gripping 21-28 win over Wests Tigers in the last round.

That win gave the Titans six wins from their final seven games of the year, and saw them finish on 34 competition points – the same as second-placed Penrith and the third-placed Tigers, with only points differential separating the three clubs.

Minor premiers St George Illawarra finished another two wins clear on top of the ladder with 38 points.

In just their fourth season in the NRL, the Titans have captured the imagination of Queensland league fans with their attacking brilliance and never-say-die attitude.

The Titans will have the entire state behind them for their second finals campaign, after the Brisbane Broncos (10th) and North Queensland Cowboys (15th) both missed the play-offs after disappointing seasons.

Another sell-out crowd is expected at Robina to cheer the Titans home.

Confidence will be high in the Titans camp, with Gold Coast winning both clashes against the Warriors this year – a 24-18 victory at Skilled Park in Round 1, and a 28-20 win in Round 21 at Mt Smart Stadium.

That confidence will be dented a little however, with the news that livewire fullback Preston Campbell will miss the Qualifying Final with his persistent hamstring problem.

Campbell’s withdrawal has seen a reshuffle in the backline, with winger William Zillman dropping back to the custodian role, and Jordan Atkins coming in as the new man on the flank in jersey No.19.

The rest of the Titans 17 remains unchanged, with Luke Bailey and Anthony Laffranchi leading a representative-quality pack, and skipper Scott Prince and Mat Rogers pulling the strings in the halves.

The clash with the fifth-placed Warriors will have a “local derby” feel to the match – and not just because of the large Kiwi population on the Gold Coast.

Ivan Cleary’s Warriors squad has a distinct maroon tinge to it, with a number of Queenslanders out to spoil the Gold Coast’s party at Robina.

Former Broncos Brent Tate, Joel Moon, Brett Seymour and ex-Cowboys Micheal Luck and Jacob Lillyman all now call New Zealand home, and will join the usual list of Kiwi Test stars in a quality Warriors line-up led by skipper Simon Mannering.

2010 NRL QUALIFYING FINAL

GOLD COAST TITANS

VS NEW ZEALAND WARRIORS

FRIDAY 10 SEPTEMBER

SKILLED PARK, ROBINA

TITANS

5.           William Zillman

2.           Kevin Gordon

3.           Steve Michaels

4.           Clinton Toopi

19.         Jordan Atkins

6.           Mat Rogers

7.           Scott Prince (c)

8.           Luke Bailey

9.           Nathan Friend

10.         Anthony Laffranchi

11.         Greg Bird

12.         Mark Minichiello

13.         Ashley Harrison

14.         Michael Henderson

15.         Brad Meyers

16.         Matthew White

17.         Bodene Thompson

Coach: John Cartwright 

WARRIORS

1.           Lance Hohaia

2.           Kevin Locke

3.           Brent Tate

18.         Joel Moon

5.           Manu Vatuvei

6.           James Maloney

7.           Brett Seymour

8.           Sam Rapira

9.           Aaron Heremaia

10.         Russell Packer

11.         Simon Mannering (c)

12.         Lewis Brown

13.         Micheal Luck

INTERCHANGE

15.         Ben Matulino

16.         Ukuma Ta'ai

17.         Jacob Lillyman

20.         Sione Lousi

 

Coach: Ivan Cleary