Greg Prichard, NRL.com
The really frustrating thing for the Titans is that they know they are good enough to be in the finals. Maybe not good enough to win the premiership, but good enough to advance beyond the regular season, and we've all had it ground into us from an early age that if you're not there you've got no hope, but if you are there you've got some hope.
The Titans were in and out of the top eight all season, but when the merry-go-round stopped they were out of it.
Who knows? If the season had gone a couple of rounds longer they may have ended up back in it. It was one of those seasons where the Titans were good enough to control their own destiny, but never really took control of it.
The early rounds were promising. They lost narrowly on the road to the Sharks in the opener and then recorded three wins on the bounce, over the Raiders, Sea Eagles and Panthers. That should have set them up for a good season, but then the ups and downs started coming, and, unfortunately for the Titans, there were more downs than ups. They lost four of their next six games, leaving them with a 5-5 record, and then had another good run of three wins from four games. The state of play then was that the Titans had an 8-6 record, which was more than enough to build a finals run on, but they couldn't close the deal. Four straight losses, to the Knights, Panthers, Sea Eagles and Rabbitohs, saw them fall to 8-10. They bounced back yet again, with back-to-back wins over the Wests Tigers and Bulldogs, but knowing that three wins out of their last four games would definitely get them into the finals and two wins might, they couldn't close the deal.
Losses to the Cowboys and Warriors left the Titans in a position where they needed to win their last two games and hope other results helped them as well. They got the first one, 30-22 over the Roosters, and almost got the second, losing 23-22 to the Storm in extra time. After the Storm game, the Titans were complaining about a controversial video refereeing call that disallowed a try to them. They may have had a case, but the truth is they shouldn't have let their season come down to that. They had the chance to get solid in the top eight well ahead of the desperate last few rounds. As it turned out, beating the Storm wouldn't have been enough for them to make the finals. The seventh- and eighth-placed Knights and Cowboys both won to clinch the last two spots in the finals anyway. The Titans finished ninth.
The Titans were hit by injuries to key players Jamal Idris and William Zillman in the second half of the season, but they can't dwell on that. Every team gets injuries.
Where They Excelled: The Titans, at their best, are a good, tough team with no shortage of skill coming off the back of that. Their star representative players – second-rower Greg Bird and lock Nate Myles – led the way in that model of player. They both bashed and barged when necessary, but they were sweet with the ball plenty of times as well. Bird came up with 26 offloads in 20 games and Myles 16 in 19. They're just good footballers.
Where They Struggled: Dare we say consistency? It wasn't just a week-to-week thing of up-and-down form with the Titans either – their form could fluctuate wildly during one half of football. This competition is too hard to be able to get away with losing intensity and concentration as often as the Titans did and still make the finals.
Missing In Action: Centre Idris and fullback Zillman were both injured in the Round 16 loss to the Knights. Idris didn't play again all season, while Zillman returned for the Round 23 game against the Cowboys but wasn't sighted again after that. It would put a big hole in any team, losing players like that, but you've got to expect that at some stage of the season key players are going to get hurt. That's why you always want to bank points by winning the games you should win, and not muck things up.
Turning Point: That four-game losing streak from Round 16 to 20 put the Titans right on the back foot. It was the longest streak – losing or winning – all season for them. The Titans went on to win three of their last six, but that wasn't nearly good enough. They had left themselves with a mountain to climb and ended up stranded, only halfway up.
Best Games: That 30-22 win over the competition-leading Roosters in the penultimate round saw the best of the Titans. Even serial under-performer Dave ‘Coal Train’ Taylor was on fire that day, running for 199 metres and making two offloads and scoring a try. Titans fans would have loved that win, but at the same time they could have kicked the dog in frustration because it is a reminder of how good the team can be when they put it all together.
Wins over the Raiders, 36-0 in Round 2, and the Eels, 42-4 in Round 11, weren't bad either.
Worst Games: That wasn't just any old four-game losing streak either – the Titans got hammered each time. It was 46-16 against the Knights, 40-18 against the Panthers, 38-20 against the Sea Eagles and 32-4 against the Rabbitohs. That is a combined 156-58. Not something to save up as a story for the grandchildren.
Hold Your Head High: Bird and Myles have no reason to be embarrassed, and neither does Kevin Gordon. Zillman's injury saw Gordon switch from wing to fullback, and his good form suggested he was meant to be that much more involved in the game. He's fast, he's got good footwork and he's tough. He runs the ball back ferociously, and with no thought of his own safety as he often heads straight for the heart of the defence.
Conclusion: The could-have-beens who probably should have been, but weren't. You can't lose your grip on the wheel in this competition as often as they did and not expect it to hurt you. The Titans did some good things, but too often they were their own worst enemies by simply dropping off in games. They were good enough to finish somewhere in the bottom half of the top eight, but a few teams who simply put it together a bit better beat them to it.
Home Record: 7 wins, 5 losses
Away Record: 4 wins, 8 losses
Longest Winning Streak: 3 (Rounds 2-4)
Longest Losing Streak: 4 (Rounds 16-17, 19-20)
Players Used: 30
Tries Scored (after 26 rounds): 75 (10th)
Tries Conceded (after 26 rounds): 84 (sixth fewest)