Taia to play with 26 stitches in face
Titans forward Zeb Taia will ignore the discomfort of having 26 stitches tracing down from the right corner of his mouth to line up against the Warriors on Sunday, vowing to back up his superb display against the Sharks on Monday night.
Taia suffered the sickening facial injury in the final few frantic moments of the 18-all draw with Cronulla on Monday night, a desperate lunge to stop Valentine Holmes on the final play of the game resulting in the Cronulla winger's boot leaving a nasty gash on the side of his face.
Thankfully for the 31-year-old the majority of damage was confined to his face with only two stitches required on the inside of his mouth so consuming food has not been an issue as he readies himself for another physical encounter.
Inspired to deliver his best performance of the season against the competition front-runners, Taia played all 90 minutes and ran for 226 metres, made 23 tackles and had three tackle busts against the Sharks and said he will use the next couple of days to prepare to go again with a similar mindset on Sunday.
"The body's still a bit rattled with this scar in my mouth and everything but I was quite lucky that it didn't go right through," Taia told NRL.com.
"All the stitches are on the outside, there are just a couple on the inside so that's the good thing.
"There are a couple more days until the game and I've just got to use those days to recover well.
"I thought the week before against Parra I was a bit flat, a bit fatigued but I had an extra day off with the longer turnaround and that definitely helped out.
"You want to play good against the best teams in the comp and that's the kind of feeling I had before the game [against Cronulla]."
The former Knight and Eel has run for more than 100 metres in each of his past four games but admits that he has struggled throughout his career to put together outstanding performances back-to-back.
Taia has missed just five minutes of Titans games – including three golden point clashes – since Round 7 and vowed to bring the same energy against the Warriors that he took into the encounter with the Sharks.
"It's just a consistency thing for me," Taia admitted.
"It's something that has been one of my problems my whole career, backing up those performances week after week and that's the challenge for me this week.
"Defensively I can be way better. I had all my misses in the second half so I need to cut that down but if I just go out there and do my part for the team, and everyone does their part for the team, we can win games.
"We're always competing with teams and we're always in it until the final whistle so we just know we compete hard with teams and it's just about everyone doing their role."
The addition of Jarryd Hayne to the Titans roster in recent days has the potential to make Sunday's showdown with the Warriors one of the most eagerly anticipated games in recent memory but Taia insists the build-up on the Gold Coast this week has been intense since Tuesday.
"We always knew it was going to be a packed game," said Taia, who will play his 127th NRL game on Sunday.
"This is probably one of the biggest games of the season. Everyone wants to come and watch the Warriors play because there is a massive following of Kiwis up here.
"I've even had a lot of people asking me for tickets.
"Hopefully Jarryd helps us to attract even more Titans fans."