With injuries to both William Zillman and David Mead, Kevin Gordon has been thrust into the unfamiliar fullback role for the Titans' clash with the Knights on Sunday. Credit: Charles Knight. Copyright: NRL Photos
They bared their souls and took responsibility for the embarrassment of their performance but Titans coach John Cartwright says even if his side dishes up something similar on Sunday he's in no position to make mass changes.
The video review of last Sunday's 36-20 loss to the Raiders was harder for some players to watch than others and while he indicated that there were players whose positions in the squad were in jeopardy, Cartwright conceded that there was little he could do.
As they prepare to play the part of party-poopers as the team to face Newcastle in RiseForAlex Round, only the Sharks (33) have used more players in season 2014 than the Titans' 30 with the latest casualty fullback William Zillman.
When the team for Sunday was announced on Tuesday Zillman featured in a casualty ward alongside David Mead (hamstring), Aidan Sezer (pectoral), Ashley Harrison (neck), Greg Bird (suspension), Ryan James (shoulder), Ben Ridge (shoulder), Beau Henry (knee), Caleb Binge (leg), Matt Srama (groin), Cody Nelson (suspension) while David Taylor, Albert Kelly and Tom Kingston will be monitored for minor injury concerns during the week.
The coach was less than impressed by the halves pairing of Daniel Mortimer and Maurice Blair against Canberra but with Sezer not due back for a month and Kelly struggling to string training sessions together, it's a combination he seems set to persist with.
All told it leaves a less-than-ideal roster for Cartwright to have at his disposal for such an important game but says it is up to the fit members of the squad to take the honesty they displayed on Monday morning onto Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
"We're very limited with numbers because of injury. Pretty much what's there [on the team list] is what we have to take the Knights on," Cartwright said of the option of dropping players who are not performing. "There might be the odd change that we could make here or there but our bottom-tier salary cap's pretty well exhausted and the rest of the guys out of the full-time squad are injured so it pretty much is what it is.
"I suppose [the honesty during the video review] is a realisation and part embarrassment too at the way we gave up some tries on the weekend. Statistically it was probably our worst game of the year yet a lot of the squad were still hanging in with 15 minutes to go, only a try away from going to 20-all.
"That was probably the disappointing thing, we didn't play well for whatever reason but we were still in the game with not long to go but we gave up a couple of soft tries at the end and when you do that that just takes the game away from you."
With his first and second-choice fullbacks both nursing hamstring injuries, Cartwright will turn to Gordon to fill the custodian's role against one of the most astute kicking games in the NRL in Knights five-eighth Jarrod Mullen.
Gordon's only previous experience in the No.1 jersey was in the final two games last season where he presided over a win over the Roosters and a golden-point loss to the Storm and was Cartwright's favoured choice ahead of Albert Kelly or under-20s captain Jahrome Hughes.
"It's a bit of a poisoned chalice at the moment, the fullback job. Everyone wants it but the two boys who want it most are both injured. I know Kevvie is every bit as keen to play fullback as the other two so he'll do a good job," Cartwright said.
"He finished the year there and I think we had a couple of good wins with him at the back. It's a different level of game fitness and base fitness to every other position so he's going to struggle in that regard but Anthony Don and Kalifa [Faifai Loa] have both played a bit of fullback so there'll be a bit of swapping around.
"The wingers have got a lot more pressure generally on them when they're catching the ball and guys charging at them whereas fullback it's generally long, coming-out-of-their-own-end kicks. The actual catching of the kicks is probably a little bit easier at fullback than it is on the wing.
"We know where we stand and it's a tough task but it's one I think is going to excite the players. We've really enjoyed the week so far on the back of a horrible loss, a lot of honesty and knowing what's in front of us and certainly what's required from us if we are going to keep challenging for a finals spot."