Titans centre Brad Tighe will face his former club, the Panthers, at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday night. Credit: Col Whelan. Copyright: NRL Photos
The Titans are on the verge of handing their finals aspirations to a group of outcasts who have become united in their bid to prove to the NRL that their talents will not go to waste.
Halfback Albert Kelly was the first of the quartet to arrive on the Gold Coast in late 2012 having been sacked by both Cronulla and Newcastle while James Roberts was handed a lifeline in March after failed stints at both South Sydney and Penrith.
Maurice Blair was the most high-profile signing of the Titans' off-season but found himself on the wrong side of the law before even playing his first game for the club and Brad Tighe was whisked onto the first Virgin Australia flight out of Sydney headed for the Gold Coast in a trade-type deal to get Jamal Idris back closer to his family in western Sydney.
Tighe played alongside Blair at Penrith in 2008-2009 and formed a close friendship with Roberts last year and along with Kelly the quartet have formed an almost inseparable bond both on and off the field.
Although daughter Ella consumes much of his spare time, Tighe often tries to instigate catch-ups over coffee and says all four are excited at the prospect of playing in first grade together, perhaps as early as Saturday night.
Named as 18th man, Roberts trained at both left and right centre during Wednesday's team run as he nears his maiden appearance for the Titans and Tighe believes the bond they share will transfer to even better performances on the field.
"With James and Maurice Blair and Alby we've grown pretty close since we've been up here and developed a bit of a relationship," Tighe said ahead of facing his former club for the first time.
"We've grown to be good mates here and that's what we want to do, we want to play at the highest level and play together so if we get that opportunity and a chance to do it I think we're going to love it.
"You need that, you need that bond and friendship so you can have that sort of trust on the field and I think up here they've definitely got it.
"A lot of the boys have that mateship away from footy so we trust each other on the field and it shows every week with how we work for each other."
A shoulder injury suffered in Round 5 against Melbourne meant that Tighe didn't make the trip back to Penrith in Round 7 so he is excited at the prospect of seeing some faces who were teammates on January 7 and then opposition players 24 hours later.
He left his home in Penrith at 4am on January 8 in order to make a Titans fitness session that morning and has quickly become an important senior player at the club.
"He's a fantastic senior player," said Titans coach John Cartwright. "As professional as any guy you would ever see. Unfortunate that he's been injured with us down in Melbourne, he was just starting to find his feet, scored a couple of tries, defensively very sound but he's certainly a player that other guys can learn off.
"He's been great for James Roberts; they're very close from their days at Penrith and a leader. That's what we brought him here for and he's given us all that."
Thirty-year-old Tighe saw first-hand over the past 12 months the development of precocious talents in Roberts and Panthers fullback Matt Moylan. Hopeful of having Roberts coming off a five-man bench to join him in the Titans' starting team, Tighe pointed to Moylan as the man Gold Coast have to find a way to contain on Saturday night.
"I knew what sort of talent he was and it was only a matter of time before he got in there and became a regular first-grader," Tighe said of Moylan, with whom he was close friends during his time at Penrith.
"[His rise] wasn't unexpected at all. He's going to go on to bigger and better things and I think he might play Origin the next couple of years if he keeps going.
"He can pop up anywhere, he can ball-play, he can kick so we've got to be good on our kick-chase, get down and get numbers in and dominate those early tackles with him.
"It's a big job for us on the weekend; he's going to keep us on our toes."
Both the Titans and Panthers have surprised many pundits with their various stints near the top of the table in the first half of the season but Tighe insists that there is work being done at Penrith that will make them a force for many years to come.
During the week the club announced the re-signing of Josh Mansour and the signing of Rabbitohs hooker Apisai Koroisau and can solidify their place in the top four with a win over Gold Coast.
"I know how hard they work down there and what sort of stuff gets done behind the scenes so they're going to be a force to be reckoned with in the next couple of years and even this year," he said.
"They're starting to play some good footy and we've got to be on our game this week and playing our best footy to beat them."