His side may find themselves stuck at the bottom of the Telstra Premiership ladder with three consecutive losses and a misfiring attack but Gold Coast coach John Cartwright has played down concerns over their ability to climb off the canvas against Canberra this weekend, describing their 0-3 start as an ‘anomaly’.
Cartwright told NRL.com that the Titans’ unexpected losing streak to start the 2011 season was an undeserved reward for their efforts following losses to St George Illawarra, Melbourne and Brisbane during the opening rounds.
And, statistically speaking at least, he may be right.
Figures supplied to NRL.com by NRL Stats this week show that they should in fact find themselves at the opposite (top) end of the table, with the Titans leading the league for both total runs (510) and kick return metres (318) and ranking second for metres gained in attack with 1333.
They have also been tackled in their opponents’ 20-metre zone more than any other team (110).
“I’ve never seen stats like that where you can look at the competition table and see where we are – it’s a bit of an anomaly,” Cartwright told NRL.com.
“But I also know that if we continue to turn up with stats like that we are going to start winning games because we’re good in a lot of areas of the game.
“Other than the Melbourne game where we were poor, the other two games we competed in every area of the game except for the scoreboard – and sometimes you’ve got no control over that. You’ve just got to keep chipping away.
“The challenge for us is to keep turning up, which can be hard when you’ve got no results to show for all your good work.”
The Titans were desperately unlucky to fall to rivals Brisbane in a 14-8 nail-biter last Friday night with Cartwright admitting to some frustration at the criticism that has since been levelled at his team.
“There were games last year where we played very similar type games and got away with a win,” he said.
“It’s funny, people like to see you win ugly but when you lose in a similar situation it’s a totally different story. It’s a fine line between winning ugly and being in poor form.
“But to dominate field position and possession the way we did, that’s half the battle to winning games and had the bounce of the ball gone our way in one or two key spots we may have come away with the win.
“Obviously we’re not scoring enough points but winning field position and possession is not a fluke – it means you’re the more dominant side – and if we continue to do that we know results will turn.”
Most worrying for the Titans this season has been their misfiring attack.
With just 36 points from their three games they rank last in the NRL for both tries and points scored, while new halves pairing Scott Prince and Greg Bird have produced just two try assists between them.
Cartwright pointed to a number of factors that have contributed to the problem – including the retirement of former five-eighth Mat Rogers – but said injuries had impacted heavily on the Titans’ progress in 2011.
“Particularly losing Nathan Friend,” he said. “Your hooker is a very important part of your game these days, and your five-eighth as well. We’ve put in a new hooker and five-eighth and we’re not quite gelling as we’d like but there has been a lot of experience come out of the side.
“There are still guys getting to know each other.
“We missed [Anthony] Laffranchi and [Mark] Minichiello and Brad Meyers in the first few weeks of the season, which didn’t help either.”
Asked about the performances of captain Prince, Cartwright said his veteran No.7 was guilty of trying too hard for the loss of his fellow playmakers.
“He needs to concentrate on his own game,” he said. “Princey sometimes worries too much about the whole team but when he concentrates on his own game, when he concentrates on his defence and gets his kicking game right we win most of those games.
“It’s great that he is concerned with how we’re going but he can only control what he does.
“I’m sure with time and players starting to come back we can fix that.”
The Titans travel to Canberra on Saturday night to face a side in a similar predicament and just as desperate to get their 2011 season moving forward after dropping consecutive games to Brisbane and Wests Tigers.
“They’re a side full of talent, that’s for sure, and we’ve struggled there in the past,” Cartwright admitted.
“Having said that I thought we turned our season around down there last year when we were well down at half time and almost came back to win it in the second half.
“It’s a place where we’d like to score our first victory and if we could do that it would be a great way to kickstart our season.”