Titans veteran Mark Minichiello remains convinced his side has what it takes to be crowned champions in 2014. Credit: Charles Knight. Copyright: NRL Photos
Their respective premiership windows inch further shut with every week that passes but Titans veterans Mark Minichiello and Luke Bailey have vowed to drag their team out of their current five-game losing streak, starting with a win over the Dragons on Sunday.
Yet to negotiate contracts at the Titans or elsewhere for 2015 and beyond, the frustration that Gold Coast have let slip a wonderful start to 2014 is evident in speaking to both Minichiello and Bailey, the two most capped players in Titans history.
Minichiello – who missed a key tackle on Jesse Bromwich in Monday night's loss to the Storm – will play game No.163 of a career that will reach the 250-game milestone in Round 17 while Bailey's Titans total currently sits at 142 from 261 career games.
Both men recognise the importance of Sunday's clash with St George Illawarra at Cbus Super Stadium, with Minichiello describing it as the club's most important game of the season.
"It's probably the most important game of the year," Minichiello told NRL.com. "Leading into a bye, that's four points, it's just a must-win. If we don't win that we could be really struggling.
"I've been playing a long time now and I've gone through this before, I had a few tough years at Souths and here at the Titans as well. We went through a rough patch but I just know that if we keep working hard we'll come out the other side.
"We've got good enough players and good enough people around here to come out of this and I still believe that we'll be playing semi-final football. We've just got to knuckle down and get through this tough period and I still believe we're a good enough team to win the comp."
While team-mates insist Bailey could play on for another year or even two, the 15-season veteran admitted that losing five games on the trot does give him cause to stop and reflect on whether he is still the right man for the job.
"It does play with your mind. When you think you're losing again... 'Do they need a fresh face? Do they need someone there?'" Bailey said.
"But I feel I'm playing some decent footy. I thought last week was one of my better games that I've played for a while and I just want to get this team out of this little rut that we're in. We've got the guys coming back [from Origin] so it's a good week to start."
New recruit Daniel Mortimer appears set to be thrust into the halfback position to oppose Benji Marshall just days after joining the club and less than one week after another mid-season signing, electric centre James Roberts, made his club debut.
The introduction of a new playmaker so late in the season could potentially further disrupt a Titans backline that has struggled to make regular incisions in opposition defences but Bailey said the playing group has discussed how to handle this difficult period.
"I think everyone's got to concentrate on doing their own thing and worry about their own job," he said.
"You can't be worrying about who's in the team and who's not and what's going on outside the team, you've just got to worry about doing your job. That's something we've talked about over the last couple of weeks; it's pretty important that everyone knows their job and does it to the best of their ability.
"I thought last week [against Melbourne] was a good stepping stone. Even though we lost and we should have won for me it was a game in the right direction and getting back to where we want to be and everyone was doing their job.
"Even with the stars coming back this week everyone's still got to lift another five or 10 per cent and I think we can get a win over the Saints on Sunday."