Friend sees familiar signs in Titans
He was one of the building blocks that put the Titans on the path to success and now Nathan Friend has returned to the Gold Coast to make sure there are positive times ahead.
A member of the inaugural squad in 2007, Friend missed just four games in the first four seasons of the latest Gold Coast franchise and was the starting hooker in every game in 2010 when the Titans got within one game of the grand final.
The first Titan to notch 100 games played just four more games in 2011 however and the team quickly plummeted from lofty heights to the cellar of the Telstra Premiership.
The Titans failed to qualify for the semi-finals in the four years that Friend spent at the Warriors but the 34-year-old believes the club is in a similar position now to when they were on the verge of rugby league immortality.
"It was built on hard work," Friend said of the formative years of the Titans.
"We had a great group of guys that they put together. All older heads so we'd been around the sport for a while and knew what was required for success.
"Our guidance was from [trainer] Billy Johnstone at the time and we just trained really hard. We were probably the fittest team in the comp but along with that fitness came the mental side of things where we were never beaten in a game.
"We showed after Billy's departure in the third season in '09 where we started to come good and I think that's probably where the club is at at the moment.
"We're just rebuilding once again, got a heap of young guys that are big and strong and if we get them mentally right I can see that the club is going to be great.
"There are plenty of young guys here and I think they could probably do with a little bit of guidance and if I can push them forward and show them what's required to play so many seasons, then so be it."
Since the wooden spoon season of 2011 the club has been mired in a myriad of off-field issues that saw the NRL step in and assume ownership in February this year after the club was placed into voluntary administration.
Friend intimated that the departure of former CEO Michael Searle was a key factor in him returning to the club and that a new coaching staff and revitalised playing roster can see the Titans move forward and forge a positive future.
"Rebecca [Frizelle, Titans chair] was around when I was here at the Coast and I knew it was heading in the right direction and in good hands," said the veteran of 221 NRL games.
"Obviously the NRL are in charge at the moment so there was no concern on that side of the page.
"[Success] is built upon hard work and I think the coaching staff that are there at the moment are driving that which is good to see.
"As a senior player I've just got to be behind that and I'll lead with my own actions and guide the young guys around.
"Hopefully they follow suit and there is some success ahead."
Friend's start to his 15th season in the NRL has been delayed somewhat by treatment to a hamstring injury that caused him discomfort in his final year at the Warriors without forcing him to miss a game.
An injection to relieve the sciatic nerve in his hamstring produced instant results and ahead of what could be his final season Friend says he is feeling fresh and ready to go.
"Apart from the 'hammy' last year the body felt great playing every game and now that sciatic nerve has been released it feels like I have got a new leg on," Friend said.
"Really keen to get out on the training paddock with the boys and throw the ball around and see what we can do.
"A lot of these guys have played together in junior grades which is great and there are just a few of us older guys that have got to slot ourselves in there.
"I don't think we should have any dramas fielding a quality side and a very competitive one."