NRL nomads to reject comforts of home
They won't be pampered at the $500-a-night Palazzo Versace but Gold Coast Titans coach John Cartwright is considering taking his team on the road ahead of their must-win clash against the Eels at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday evening.
Sunday's 22-8 win over the Knights in Newcastle took the Titans to a league-best 6-2 away from home this season but their performances on the Gold Coast have been nothing short of abysmal and have the side perched on the precipice of finals contention.
Currently two points outside the top eight but with a points differential that is the worst of the top 12 teams, the Titans must find a solution to their woeful displays at home ahead of hosting the Eels, Sea Eagles (Round 23) and Bulldogs (Round 26) and coach John Cartwright admits it could be as simple as mirroring the preparation for away games that has proved so successful.
"I can guarantee you it will be no five-star hotel, it might be the Tugun Hotel," Cartwright said of taking players out of their comfort zones prior to home games.
"We've spoken about it as coaches and with the players, it's a difficult one. It's a totally different preparation when you're away as a group. We're generally away for a couple of days so it is a totally different preparation than when you're at home and you've got the families around and we just seem to handle [away games] really well.
"We're going to try and vary a few things over the coming few home games and see if we can replicate what we do away.
"We spoke this morning maybe about staying away if we can or getting to the ground a little bit later like we do when we're away, just those little things that in the end but it is all Band-Aid stuff.
"You've got to turn up with the right attitude and handle whatever's thrown at you but if we can tinker with things and see if they work."
The plan certainly garnered support from senior players Mark Minichiello and Luke Douglas, who both conceded that they are at a loss why they haven't been able to replicate good away form in front of their home fans where they have managed just two wins from nine games.
"We haven't been too good at home and we've got to change that this week," said Minichiello. "We've been really good away from home, I think we're six-from-eight away, and we haven't had too many wins at home.
"It's more mental preparation. We've got to turn up with the right attitude and turn our win-loss record at home around. Coming off a win like that [against Newcastle], we've got no excuse not to turn up on Saturday afternoon."
"I don't know about the logistics of it, the funding and all that but it could be an option. I'd be up for it," Douglas said of the prospect of going into camp the night before a home game.
"As we have done with away games, there was just a different feeling [at Newcastle on Sunday]. We go in, we're mentally prepared from the start, focused, and again the same sort of feeling.
"We rocked up to Newcastle, we were well prepared and went through our game-day routines and went off to the field and were on so to speak. It's definitely something we've got to look at."
With the celebrations surrounding the Rise For Alex Round, Cartwright even went as far as to keep his players away from the ground as long as possible so that they wouldn't be caught up in the emotion of the day.
Both Douglas and Minichiello spoke of the thrill of playing in such a big occasion and described the win as one of the best in their time at the club.
"All the fans really turned up for Alex and put on a great atmosphere for us and we happened to go out there, turn up and play some really good football and got the result we needed," Minichiello said.
"It was a very emotional day, especially for the Newcastle people, and having Alex lead the teams out... It was pretty emotional for everyone, seeing him and I thought the Newcastle Knights put on a great event for him and made it a great atmosphere.
"It's right up there as one of the best wins that we have had in the club's history. Just the atmosphere and the emotion of the game and to have s many players out through injury, I thought everyone who played at Newcastle really stood up and did the Titans proud."
It wasn't all good news though, with veteran prop Luke Bailey likely to miss the clash with Parramatta on Saturday due to a hamstring strain.