Titans wrestle with great expectations
When you are the underdogs anything is possible.
The expectation of success is absent and any subsequent loss can be explained away if you at least made the opposition earn their victory.
Given their lack of success in recent years it is a tag that the Gold Coast Titans have had to wear whether they wanted it or not and they have become comfortable in it, almost to the point of embracing it.
But it is a tag that they must want to shed in order to be considered a genuine finals contender in 2016.
For the second week in a row the Titans start favourites when they host a Manly team on Monday night that while injury depleted still contains classy performers in Brett Stewart, Jamie Lyon, Martin Taupau, Jamie Buhrer and the Trbojevic brothers Tom and Jake.
Derided as wooden spoon certainties at the start of the season the Titans earned premiership credibility with some brave comebacks early in the season that sometimes came up short and on other occasions saw stirring victories.
These performances are the calling card of the underdog and why the Titans have seemed so uncomfortable playing from in front the past two weeks.
Against the Rabbitohs they led 18-0 five minutes into the second half but had to go to golden point to get the job done and then on the back of a three-game winning streak against an Eels team that was tenacious in spite of the adversity they have faced led 8-0 before succumbing 22-12.
Players would be oblivious to the prices in betting markets but they know when they are expected to win and Titans winger Anthony Don concedes it is a mindset that they have not dealt with well of late.
"I don't think we take too much of what the media say on board, we don't talk about it as a team or anything like that but individuals might take that stuff on," Don said.
"I don't mind being the underdog and I'm sure I speak for all of the boys when I say that. We probably like getting written off and that might bring the other team's expectation a bit lower for us so it might give us a slight advantage but we're going all right now so see how we go this year.
"I haven't been checking the prices before each match and rating how we've been going but we've got to win the games that we're expected to win and that was probably the case on the weekend [against the Eels].
"That was probably a game that got away and it's two points that we want to get back.
"We've got to make sure that against Manly we go on and win the game."
Co-captain Nathan Friend also agreed that the team let a golden opportunity to build on their mid-season momentum slip against the Eels but doesn't believe favouritism is impacting on their performances in games.
"The way that we started [against the Eels] we probably don't feel that the favourites tag hurt us," Friend said. "The simple things in our game are that if you don't complete you're in trouble.
"It's unfortunate that we may lose those games that we are favourites.
"On the weekend it probably let us down. We'd won three games and here was a chance to continue and get another victory but it just wasn't to be.
"I don't think it really matters what the odds are for us. The mindset as a team is always to go out and perform and give our best performance week in and week out.
"That sort of stuff is out of our control and all we can do is prepare the same. I feel that especially within this club no one really takes too much notice of the media."
No club embodies a winning mindset more than Friend's former club the Melbourne Storm but the 35-year-old believes the base is developing at the Titans to foster a similar mentality in the coming years.
"It's just rolling the sleeves up when you're on the back foot," said Friend.
"It's not putting on the miracle play, it's getting through your set, the kick-chase and trying to change the momentum of the game which is probably the hardest part.
"If you kick well, get through your sets, take those tough carries and come up with that extra effort that someone finds, that's how you do it.
"Having watched [the Titans] from abroad last year they were much like they are this year. They were very competitive and had that never-say-die attitude.
"I saw that last year and thought it would be great to be a part of and I saw it in the off-season with the guys and their attitude.
"Certainly good signs moving forward for the club because there are a couple of seniors but there are a lot of young guys here that are obviously going to learn from all the experience that we've had."