Titans better placed this time around: Laffranchi

The Gold Coast Titans are using the pain of last year’s quick-fire exit from the finals series as their motivation to maintain the rage over the final three weeks of the season – starting with Sydney Roosters this Monday night.<br><br>Still smarting after finishing the 2009 regular season in third only to bow out with consecutive finals losses to Brisbane and Parramatta, the Titans are keen to make amends this time around and continue an impressive run that has seen them move up to second on the NRL ladder with three games remaining. <br><br>And while this week’s clash with the Roosters looms as a danger game for the Queenslanders, back-rower Anthony Laffranchi believes his side is better equipped to make a run for the title in 2010.<br><br>“We learnt a lot from last year,” Laffranchi told NRL.com. “It was disappointing to bow out in ‘straight sets’. <br><br>“We got touched up the week before by Manly as well (38-4) so we’re conscious that momentum is a big thing. From personal experience, when you’ve got momentum at this time of year it’s hard to stop that roll. <br><br>“Looking back, it was a big relief for the club to get to the semis for the first time and maybe we dropped our intensity a bit. We were a bit shell-shocked early by those teams in the semi finals. <br><br>“But I think if we get there, and when we get there, this year you’ll see a different Titans side heading into the finals.”<br><br>More importantly, Laffranchi believes the Gold Coast – who will notch their fifth successive win should they defeat the Roosters – are far healthier heading into this year’s finals series.<br><br>Battered by injuries at the business end of the recent seasons, this time around they boast a fit and firing squad bolstered by the recent return from injury of veteran five-eighth Mat Rogers.<br><br>“I think we’re a better side,” Laffranchi said. “The squad is healthy, which is always a good sign.<br><br>“Last year was a real learning curve for everyone as well – especially the younger guys. So I do think we’re in a better position but there are still three games to go.<br><br>“We’re not there yet and we can’t be thinking about September too far ahead.<br><br>“We’ve got a very big game on Monday night and I think his will go down as a real pivotal game in our season leading into the finals.”<br><br>It’s been quite the turnaround for the Titans, who only a month ago were in danger of slipping out of the top eight altogether but now find themselves amongst the front-runners following impressive wins over St George Illawarra, the Warriors, Parramatta and North Queensland.<br><br>While top four rivals Wests Tigers stopped the rot last weekend after a soul-searching camp in Kiama, Laffranchi said the Gold Coast hadn’t needed any such action.<br><br>“We always knew what we needed to do – we just needed to do it for 80 minutes,” the 29-year-old said.<br><br>“There was no great secret we needed to unlock – we didn’t change anything too much.<br><br>“Obviously we got together as a team as every team does, but it was just sticking to the basics right through the whole game.<br><br>“You probably look back at the Dragons game (which the Titans won 11-10) and although we only won by a point, we were able to stick to our structure for the entire 80 minutes.<br><br>“I think that was an important win for us because it showed us that ‘Hey, we can do it’.<br><br>“We’ve got a lot of belief here now.”<br><br><b>Late NRL news:</b><br>•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;St George Illawarra captain Ben Hornby is expected to make his return from a virus against Manly this Sunday after missing Monday’s big win over Manly in a huge boost for the competition front-runners.<br><br>•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Wests Tigers are expecting prop Keith Galloway to be fit to take on Parramatta on Sunday. Galloway missed last week’s win over Penrith with concussion.<br><br>•&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Newcastle’s last-ditch bid to creep into the finals has been bolstered with five-eighth Jarrod Mullen returning early from broken ribs against the Broncos tonight. Cooper Vuna (calf) and Matt Hilder (thigh) have also been cleared to play.