Sense of occasion not lost on Titans
Few gave the Gold Coast Titans much hope of leaving Newcastle with the two competition points in RiseForAlex Round. But they did just that, defeating the Knights 22-8 and showed true class, as well as admiration for injured Knights forward Alex McKinnon.
Having played in big-time games previously, Titans co-captain Nate Myles knew what to expect with the majority of the 26,000-plus crowd in Newcastle's favour but couldn't help but feel touched upon seeing the distinguished guest, Alex McKinnon, lead both sides out onto Hunter Stadium.
"Just seeing them come down from the other end of the stadium took me back a bit and when we went out onto the field it hit me again and to see his emotion and all the support got to me a little bit to be honest so it was a fantastic concept," Myles told reporters after the game.
"We did talk about the occasion but for us it was about playing in front of a full house and it isn't often you're getting that nowadays in a regular round game. A lot of our boys haven't experienced a big game like this and I thought they did well."
In what proved to be a masterstroke from Titans mentor John Cartwright, the coach kept his players away from the hype of the day until an hour before the game, preferring to prepare his troops at the team hotel instead.
"I remember playing a game here not long after the earthquakes here [in 1989] and there was a big commemoration and that's what Phil Gould did to us, he just kept us back at the hotel," Cartwright explained. "We arrived here even later I think... maybe 10 minutes before kick-off and we basically got off the bus and went onto the field because we didn't want to get caught up in the hype."
Speaking of plans, Cartwright's reshuffle of his team prior to the game which ultimately left Dave Taylor playing in the centres proved fruitful with the regular back-rower producing 190 metres and a line break.
"He was very strong," Cartwright said. "He had his best game in a while for the club. He has played a fair bit of centre for us over the year, especially earlier in the year, and he's a handful wherever he played. He just seems to have a bit more petrol for us out in the centres so there's always a bit more energy in him."
With the Titans set to face the Eels next weekend at Cbus Super Stadium, the victory against the Knights has proved vital as they eye off a chance of sneaking into the top eight.
"We can't worry about what's happened in the last nine weeks, we don't like what's happened but we're going to do everything we can so it doesn't happen again. We're still in the hunt [for the finals]. Next week... is a real good opportunity to try and get things going our way."