World Cup sparks 'Mini' revival
He's one of only two inaugural Titans still standing but Mark Minichiello is determined to use the recent World Cup as a springboard to earn another contract at the Gold Coast beyond the 2014 season.
Minichiello and Luke Bailey are the only two remaining players still at the Titans from the team that ran out for Round 1 in 2007 and already there has been conjecture as to whether they will be offered deals that would take them into their seventh seasons on the Gold Coast.
About to turn 34 years of age on January 5, Bailey's training workload is carefully managed and specifically tailored while Minichiello says that the experience of playing in the World Cup for Italy has refreshed him both physically and mentally.
"I feel great. I've come back from not doing too much and I'm still pretty fit running out there [at training]," Minichiello said. "The body feels good and I'll just play this year out and see how we go but I have no intentions of stopping past this year.
"It was a fun time [at the World Cup] and I've come back pretty fresh mentally. I had four weeks off after I played over there and I'm ready to get back into it after 'Chrissy'.
"You're still playing rugby league and you're still playing tough games but it's a different environment, a different bunch of blokes that sort of refreshes you and keeps you enjoying the game."
This year will mark 12 years since Minichiello made his NRL debut for the Sydney Roosters alongside older brother Anthony and besides two City Origin appearances together in 2007 and 2010, the World Cup marked the first time they had played in the same side together for more than one week at a time.
With Anthony committed to what will be his 15th season at the Roosters, Mark said the World Cup experience was one they will cherish for the rest of their lives.
"It was a great experience. We had a great time and to play with my brother over there for a good five or six weeks was a lot of fun," Mark explained.
"We've only played a couple of times together in our career so to do that over there towards the back-end of our careers was something pretty special.
"I had a great time and it was a great experience, especially for the Italian Rugby League. It did big things for them, playing in our first World Cup and doing so well, I think it's going to help the Italian Rugby League in Italy big time."
But Minichiello's focus now turns back to the Titans and forcing his way into a back-row rotation that includes Kangaroo stars Greg Bird and Nate Myles, Queensland Origin reps Ashley Harrison and Dave Taylor and promising youngsters Ben Ridge and Paul Carter.
Add Ryan James, Luke Bailey and Luke Douglas and it's a forward pack to rival any in the competition and Minichiello is adamant that they have a team capable of playing finals football for the first time since 2010.
"Our forwards have always been strong and there's always competition for spots and this year is no different," the 31-year-old said. "You've got to perform or you won't be there, especially once 'Birdy' and Nate come back from their break.
"We were very disappointed not to be in the semi-finals last year, no secret about that, it was a disappointing year not to be there when it really matters.
"This year the focus will be on being there at finals time, that's where you want to be playing and I think we've got the side to definitely be in the top eight."