'Hungry' Cullen ready for second shot
Most players only watch themselves play under the critical eye of the coaching staff in Monday's video review but Cameron Cullen was so excited to have made his NRL debut for the Titans in Round 6 that he watched it back as soon as he got home to the Gold Coast.
After an encouraging first-up display Cullen has earned a second start in the NRL due to the absence of halfback Ashley Taylor. Taylor was initially thought to have been suffering from either appendicitis or a gall bladder infection when he was admitted to hospital during the week but coach Neil Henry said they now believe it to be a minor tear in the oblique muscle that was enough to prevent him from travelling with the team.
Taylor's misfortune is Cullen's gain, the 22-year-old to partner Tyrone Roberts in the halves against the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Saturday afternoon, the fourth different halves combination the Titans have used in four straight weeks.
Having spent time with both the Broncos and Cowboys, Cullen's opportunity to join the Titans came when Kane Elgey suffered a season-ending knee injury in pre-season training and impressed in his first start against the Sharks.
The diminutive No.7 scored a try late in the first half and played nice and direct with his sharp running game, doing enough to satisfy himself that he hadn't been overawed by the occasion.
"I don't get much sleep after games, especially a debut, so I went straight home and watched it when I got home," Cullen said.
"I'm always pretty critical of my own performance after any game. There were things that I could improve on but I was happy with how I played, that's for sure.
"I was happy with what I did out there and obviously look to build on that any more games I get.
"I didn't feel nervous running out to be honest. I felt good, after the warm-up and everything was done I felt good and ready to go. I tried not to think about it all week and keep the emotion out of it so I could go out there and do my job.
"A couple of days after I reflected on it and it's massive for me. It's been a goal of mine for a very long time, I've put so much hard work into it and to finally achieve it was a bit of a relief.
"I'll never forget the experience and it's definitely made me hungry to play more."
At a time of the season where continuity of personnel is important the loss of Taylor is another disruption the Titans could do without.
After two weeks out with a knee injury Tyrone Roberts made his return last week against the Dragons and coach Neil Henry remains confident that he and Cullen can combine well against a Bulldogs team who lost narrowly to the Warriors last weekend.
"We have had four different combinations in four weeks but 'Cullo' playing on that left side, he can stay there and Tyrone will be on that right side where he's played most of his footy anyway for us in particular," Henry said.
"Cullo didn't let anybody down in that debut game against Cronulla. He scored a try and he's nice and direct.
"Tyrone might have to take on a bit more of the kicking but he tends to be the dominant kicker anyway. Ash has been good but I think we've got a capable back-up."
Two points behind the Bulldogs on the ladder and level with five other teams on six competition points, Henry said that while they face a difficult assignment it is important to try and keep pace with the top eight.
"There are a lot of teams on similar points and you can drop down the ladder pretty quickly," Henry said.
"We've had a few thereabout kind of games with a couple of five-point losses but it is a tough assignment down there. Their form has been a bit up and down too and they'll be smarting after that loss to the Warriors.
"They got back into that game late and we'll need to improve to be a chance of beating them down there.
"It's not insurmountable but we need to go down there and play to our ability."