Justin Holbrook wishes he could use the impending Origin series as an excuse for why his Titans misfired badly against a Sharks outfit buoyed by new halves pairing Shaun Johnson and Matt Moylan.
The veteran duo played a few games together last season but helping to orchestrate a 38-10 demolition of the Titans at Coffs Harbour on Sunday was their first for 2021.
Cronulla are unlikely to have any players on Origin duty this year, whereas the Titans had five players auditioning for Queensland duty in AJ Brimson, Tino Fa'asumaleaui, David Fifita, Moeaki Fotuaika and Jarrod Wallace.
Brimson left the ground at Coffs Harbour on Sunday in the 54th minute, limping due to a knee injury.
"He got his knee banged up again with some bone bruising I think, which is what he got earlier against the Broncos," Holbrook said.
"So it doesn't help when you lose one of your best guys and your shuffling blokes around and their attack is humming."
The coach didn't know if the injury was serious enough to keep Brimson out of the Queensland side while the fullback told Fox Sports he was confident he could suit up if required.
Match Highlights: Sharks v Titans
"At the moment its a bit sore but it's not too bad," Brimson said.
"I had a knee clash against the Broncos about four weeks ago and it's just been hanging around a little bit.
"It hasn't really been bothering me but then just another knee clash it's just kind of set it off again. I don't think it's a long-term injury which is a good thing."
Holbrook said he also couldn't blame any perceived pre-Origin anticipation from his players, in so far as they had their minds on next week and not the Sharks.
"If that had happened for the first time today I'd agree with you and use it as an excuse," Holbrook said. "But we've done that four or five times now out of 12 games.
"It's just too common to use the excuse that Origin is just around the corner. I didn't see any of that last week. All the guys who will get picked were terrific this week."
Missed tackles were pretty even between both sides but the line breaks - six to the Titans, 11 to the Sharks - and the 11 errors to the Gold Coast told the story.
"It was definitely on ourselves. [Cronulla] are a terrific attacking team and we knew that coming here. It wasn't as if they caught us off guard," Holbrook said.
"We need to look at ourselves - just not good enough defensively again. We're doing a horrible job of scrambling or trying to hang in there.
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"We've got to try and create our own luck and get on top in games and have the other sides fumbling around. At the minute it's happening against us and we're not good enough to stop it."
He will be down on troops for next Saturday's round-13 game against the Storm at Sunshine Coast Stadium.
"I could have seven of eight different players next week - with Origin and injuries - and you're up against one of the best sides in the competition. I don't want to sound doom and gloom because we've got no other choice. We've got to bounce back," Holbrook said.
"It doesn't matter who the Storm has - they just play better each week.
"But we've got to try and jag a couple of wins."