Injured Titans trio set to return
The Titans' hopes of leap-frogging the Dragons into the Telstra Premiership top eight this Friday have been given a major boost with injured trio David Mead, Ashley Taylor and Konrad Hurrell all expected to return.
When the two competition points for the bye are added following the completion of Round 18 tonight, St George Illawarra will move ahead of Penrith to sit in eighth position on 20 competition points with the Titans in ninth on 18.
It makes Friday night's meeting at UOW Jubilee Oval in Kogarah doubly important because the winner will not only take a step closer towards finals football but keep one of their main rivals for a top eight spot at bay for a further week.
Gold Coast co-captain William Zillman is still a week away from a return with a foot injury so Mead is likely to slot straight in at fullback and Josh Hoffman reverts to his regular position of left centre.
Hurrell has recovered from a calf injury and will play just his second game for the Titans at right centre, something of a cursed position on the field for the Titans given the broken ankles suffered by both Nathan Davis and Karl Lawton in recent weeks.
Taylor was rested from the 27-18 loss to the Warriors in Round 17 so that he could recover from a groin strain and although he did limited training on Monday says he will be right to play against the Dragons.
"Obviously being rested against the Warriors and then having the bye as well really worked out well for myself and I'm feeling very confident with where I am at the moment," Taylor said.
"Neil (Henry, Titans coach) said he was going to risk me playing but that could jeopardise the rest of the season so I just wanted to make sure I'm right for the rest of the season and if that meant taking the week off then I'll take the week off."
With Mead and Hurrell back in the mix Chris McQueen will be able to revert to his preferred position in the back row having been forced to fill in out wide in losses to the Raiders and Warriors.
With nine finals appearances for the Rabbitohs no player at the Titans has played more September football than McQueen and he said the key now is to not get caught looking at the ladder.
In the run home the Titans face fellow finals hopefuls in the Dragons, Warriors, Wests Tigers and Panthers but McQueen said that they can't afford to be predicting how many wins they need in the closing eight weeks to qualify.
"We just have to make sure that we don't get ahead of ourselves," said McQueen.
"If we take a look at the big picture and think we have to win pretty much every week it's easy to get overawed by that.
"We just have to take it one week at a time and know that if we can win the majority of these games we're going to be sitting pretty for the finals.
"I don't know if it puts extra weight on this week but they're probably in a pretty similar situation to us where they want to win as many games as they can towards the end of the year to try and secure that spot.
"It is probably a danger game for us, they're going to be just as desperate as we are.
"We know we pretty much need to win every game so it's time for us to lift our intensity."