Friend's final request of Titans teammates
On the eve of his final home game Titans captain Nathan Friend has issued an impassioned plea to his Gold Coast teammates not to let a golden opportunity slip and to help extend his NRL career but at least one week.
The biggest crowd ever for a Titans-Panthers clash is expected to flood into Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday for what will be Friend's 119th game for the club and the 240th game of his 15-year NRL career.
The last of Friend's seven finals games was with the Titans way back in 2010 and as the countdown ramps up to the end of his rugby league career the second-oldest player in the Telstra Premiership will make those around him acutely aware of what is at stake on Saturday.
"It was brought up that destiny is in our hands and it takes a victory this weekend," Friend said of the Titans' finals fate.
"Obviously knowing that the end is near for me, I'll try to put that forward in our video meeting and let the guys know that it's not every year that you get an opportunity to play in finals.
"I'll be doing all I can with whatever minutes I get out there. Hopefully I get on there and maybe we're a couple of points up and I might go the chip-and-chase to something like that.
"Some great memories [at Cbus Super Stadium] and it will be great to share that with a packed house and with my family."
Of all the recruitment masterstrokes that coach Neil Henry has made over the past 12 months signing Friend for a final season where he was a foundation player has provided the greatest return on investment.
Signed to a base contract that meant he had to supplement his income by returning to his trade as a bricklayer part-time, Friend helped to instil a level of professionalism from day one of pre-season training that promises to have a positive effect long after he is gone.
"He's brought a real professional attitude. He brings that competitive nature, he's had a long time in the game and he's built it on the back of preparation," Henry said.
"He's not a big man but he's a tough competitor. It's his attitude and how he conducts himself to prepare for footy has really rubbed off, particularly on some of our younger players.
"It's great that he's been able to come back and finish his career where he played 100 games before."
Having virtually been playing sudden-death football for the past month, Henry will encourage his players to embrace the emotion surrounding the Panthers clash and to use the energy of the crowd to their advantage.
The Panthers come into the game seeking to wrap up a finals berth themselves and perhaps push for a home final in week one and having scored 120 points and conceded just 34 in their past three games.
Henry is aware of the pressure on his side to ensure a season where they have exceeded all expectations doesn't fall short of September but is confident they have enough players with big-game experience to rise to the occasion.
"I think we need to ride on the back of a fair bit of emotion that the crowd can generate and willing us to make it to the finals for the first time in a long time," Henry said.
"I think we need to feed off the environment. It's good to have the hype. The boys seem pretty relaxed this week, it's no different really. We've been able to be successful in the last few games and our last five or six weeks of footy have been pretty consistent.
"I don't think there'll be any stage fright there but we certainly know we're up for a tough game against a side that's got some real momentum and scored plenty of points lately.
"We've had that pressure and if we'd dropped a game or two we wouldn't even be a chance of making the finals. That's been there in the background but we've just focused on each game.
"This will be a real test and gauge of where we're at against a side that's expected to be in the eight now on their run.
"It's a really good challenge and our guys are up for it."
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