The Run Home: Titans
How they stand: The Titans appear to have forgotten to come back from their bye in Round 17 and have slumped to 15th on the ladder on the back of two terrible performances against Manly and Newcastle.
Having been embroiled in all manner of off-field incidents – one of which continues to hang over five members of the first grade squad – the Titans surged mid-year to push into the top eight before injuries to key playmakers steered them off course. A top-eight finish would have been extraordinary given the circumstances but Gold Coast now appear headed for the wooden spoon that the vast majority of pundits predicted before a ball was kicked in 2015.
The equation following Saturday's loss to the Knights in Newcastle is a simple one for the Titans; win every game from here on in or miss the finals for the fourth consecutive year. Having clawed their way into the top eight mid-season against all the odds, the Titans have lost their past four on the trot to be closer to the wooden spoon than a finals berth. In order to make the finals they would need to beat the Broncos (Round 20), Storm (Round 22) and Cowboys (26) away from home, with their record at those three venues standing at a combined seven wins from 26 previous attempts. It is clear there is a roster clean-out imminent but there is no excuse for the past two inept performances.
Round 20: v Broncos at Suncorp Stadium, 7.35pm Friday, July 24
Round 21: v Eels at Cbus Super Stadium, 7pm Monday August 3
Round 22: v Storm at AAMI Park, 2pm Sunday August 9
Round 23: v Bulldogs at Central Coast Stadium, 4pm Sunday August 16
Round 24: v Raiders at Cbus Super Stadium, 7pm Monday August 24
Round 25: v Dragons at Cbus Super Stadium, 4pm Sunday August 31
Round 26: v Cowboys at 1300SMILES Stadium, 7.30pm Saturday September 5
Key clash: Even the mathematicians can knock off early if the Titans can't find a way to upset the ladder leading Broncos at Suncorp Stadium this Friday night. The Titans haven't defeated the Broncos at Suncorp since their inaugural season in 2007 and if they can't break the drought then their finals hopes dry up completely.
Key player: Given the expected announcement that Broncos youngster Ashley Taylor will join the club in 2016 all eyes will be on how Kane Elgey finishes the season. In nine games prior to injuring his ankle Elgey laid on seven try assists, six line-break assists in addition to scoring three tries of his own as the Titans went 5-4 to recover somewhat from their slow start. The Titans are investing in youth and Elgey's continued development is key to any future success.
Injury report: The troops are returning but it may be all too late. Elgey and Greg Bird were back last week with five-eighth Aidan Sezer a chance to return against the Broncos on Friday. The injuries that decimated the key playmaking positions through the middle of the season cruelled the Titans' chances with Will Zillman's back injury also an unexpected blow to their stocks of senior players.
NRL.com predicted finish: 16th.