Titans wary of Sandow smarts
He's the pint-sized playmaker with a past propensity for a punt and no matter how much video they study during the week, Titans coach John Cartwright knows there is no real way to prepare for what Parramatta's Chris Sandow brings to the footy field.
They may have pored over a highlights reel of Jarryd Hayne and searched for ways to contain the posse of Parramatta powerhouses lining their back row stocks but when it comes to Sandow, the Titans know to expect the unexpected for the entire 80 minutes.
Saturday evening's clash at Cbus Super Stadium will keep the flicker of a finals berth alive for the victors with the Titans squad going into camp on Friday night in order to arrest their horrible 2-6 record at home.
Possessing an instinctive streak that can put his team under pressure as often as it brings fans to their feet, Sandow's numbers for try assists (seven), line-break assists (eight) and line breaks (six) pale in comparison to other halfbacks in the competition but it's the ability to produce a moment of magic that gives the Titans their greatest cause for concern.
"Everyone's got to be on their toes. When you think you know what he's doing that's when you've got to be even more alert," said coach John Cartwright.
"If the defence are over-reading the play he'll come up with something different; he'll chip kick, he'll grubber kick, he'll kick to the wing, he'll take you on on play five.
"He's very similar to what Allan Langer used to be like, you can't expect anything like you see on the video screen. It will all be down to the moment and he pretty much plays what he sees."
Co-captain Nate Myles has watched closely the progress of power-packed forwards such as Peni Terepo, Pauli Pauli, Junior Paulo and Tepai Moeroa but knows it's the little No.7 that the Titans' big men have to guard against.
"Fifth tackle option with Chrissy Sandow means he can either chip it, kick it long, kick it for himself, run it, you just don't know what he's going to do," Myles admitted.
"He's a difficult man to do some research on but I think we've done enough to prepare ourselves in the best way.
"We're preparing for Tim Mannah to be back in the side as well this week and you're right, they're young, they're enthusiastic and they're coming off the back fence when it's their turn to run.
"We've done our video on that so we know what we're in for so it's just a matter of preparing the right way and getting out there and doing it."
The unbridled way in which the young Parramatta forwards attack their work has been a highlight in 2014 not just for Eels fans but for fans as the game as a whole, including Cartwright.
Although the Eels boast four forwards under the age of 23, Cartwright is confident his hardened veterans are up to the challenge they are about to face.
"As a footy fan you love it. They play without any fear and don't care who's in front of them or who's alongside them, they play the game as it should be played," Cartwright said the Parramatta tearaways.
"Keep it simple; run hard and support each other but we've got every incentive to do the same. We believe that if we're anywhere hear our best we can come away with a good win.
"You've just got to get in their face. There's no secret plan, you've got to win the tackle, plenty of line speed and a lot of trust and go in hard. There's no secret to it. They're a very big, powerful side and if you turn the ball over or give away cheap penalties it makes them even more effective."
Despite an injury concern earlier in the week Titans hooker Beau Falloon will take his place in the side but Matt Srama has been ruled out after he failed to complete Friday's captain's run.
Utility Maurice Blair has been included on the bench to cover for any emergencies, if required.
"It gives us cover if we lose anyone in the backline," Cartwright said of Blair's inclusion. "Sometimes that's really hard to cater for but at this stage of the season everyone's pretty fit, we've got three forwards on the bench, you don't need four.
"If the fourth guy there, if it turns out he doesn't get a run, that's just what's best for the team but if you lose a halfback or a fullback in the first five or 10 minutes we've got a guy there who can slot straight in."