Greg Prichard,, NRL.com
After making a successful comeback from a torn Achilles tendon and turning 33 earlier this month, Titans captain Luke Bailey has decided to play on into next season.
“We wanted to see how I came back from the Achilles injury first,” said the former NSW and Australian prop. “And it’s fine. I’ve talked to the club and we’ve basically come to an agreement on another 12 months. I think it will be announced pretty soon.
“I’m still competing with the younger guys, so I’m pretty happy with the way I’m going. I’m feeling great. You’re a long time retired, so I want to keep playing until I think I’m at risk of letting the jumper down.”
Bailey, who injured his Achilles late last season, has played in all eight games for the Titans this season, averaging 46 minutes, 89 metres and 26 tackles per game.
On Sunday he will lead the Titans against his old club the Dragons at Skilled Park, and Bailey says the Titans are desperate to get a win after losing two in a row for the first time this season. They have an overall win-loss record of 4-4.
“I played seven seasons for the Dragons and this is my seventh at the Titans,” he said. “I love playing against my old mates. The Dragons’ team has obviously changed a lot since I was there, but there are still a few guys like ‘Coops’ (Matt Cooper) and Ben Creagh.
“The Dragons have got a good record against us, so we’re going to have to be on our toes. Both teams badly need the win.”
Two rounds back, the Titans were thrashed 30-6 at home by the Knights, and last weekend they lost 25-24 to the Warriors on the road.
There were excuses for the loss to the Knights, because the Titans lost three players – lock Ashley Harrison, hooker Matt Srama and centre Luke O’Dwyer – to injury for good very early in the match.
But Bailey said that despite a controversial video refereeing decision to award the Warriors a try midway through the game, the Titans didn’t deserve to win that one.
He said that when the Titans narrowly escaped losing to the Eels three rounds back it should have been a warning that they needed to lift, but they had failed to do so and now it was time they must aim up.
The Eels led 22-8 in that game, but the Titans, aided by a glut of penalties, came back to win 28-22.
“We’ve conceded almost 80 points in three rounds, and that’s simply not good enough,” Bailey said. “We may have only lost by a point in the end to the Warriors, but they got away with a good lead during the game because they outplayed us. We were pretty poor for a lot of the match.
“We did a lot of work on our defence in the off-season, so to concede as many points as we have in the last three weeks is very disappointing. We went over to Auckland two days before the game to settle in and give ourselves every chance of winning, but we looked pretty ordinary out there.
“There have been a lot of honest words spoken at training this week. Everyone in the team is expected to improve against the Dragons. We’ve had a three-game stretch in which we’ve been pretty average, and everyone is aware of that.
“Everyone – forwards and backs – knows they have to lift. There’s no hiding on Sunday – if we want to go places this season we have to play collectively, as a 17, and show more discipline.”
Titans coach John Cartwright also put a major emphasis on the importance of the result against the Dragons.
Srama, O’Dwyer and Harrison are all still out injured at this stage, and if Harrison recovers in time he could be one of as many as four Titans players involved in the upcoming State of Origin series.
Nate Myles and Greg Bird are certainties for Queensland and NSW respectively, and Dave Taylor is also a Maroons contender. Harrison has been a regular in the Queensland side in recent years when fit.
Cartwright is acutely aware of the need to pick up points ahead of the Origin series, since the Titans are going to be hurt by the unavailability of star players during it.
“We’ve lost two in a row, so Sunday’s game is critical with Origin coming up,” he said. “There are no excuses – we really need to win this one.”