Titans steeled for finals-like atmosphere
The pressure of needing a win in your last game on home soil to wrap up a finals berth is present but Titans forward Ryan Simpkins believes his side have been steeled by walking the finals tightrope for the past month.
Gold Coast can secure a finals berth for the first time since 2010 with a win at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday evening but standing in their way is a Penrith team that has comfortably disposed of their past three opponents and are generating serious momentum.
Three of the Titans' biggest drawing games of the year have been their past three fixtures at home against the Eels, Sharks and Warriors and a crowd in excess of 18,000 is expected again for the final home game of the season.
It's a game with much at stake but having also played in front of a raucous crowd at Campbelltown and come away with the two competition points Simpkins is confident the Titans won't be overawed by the occasion.
"You can put a bit more pressure on yourself if you're not careful but it is just another game," said Simpkins.
"It's going to be a bit more intense than some others and have more of a finals-type atmosphere but we've played in those games the last four weeks anyway.
"Every footballer likes to play in a great atmosphere in front of a packed stadium. We had it a couple of weeks ago at Campbelltown which was great and the week before against the Warriors and hopefully we can get another good crowd this weekend.
"We've tried to treat every game as if it was the most important of the season over the last month so I don't think it will be any different this week."
A Gold Coast junior who spent three years at the Panthers when the Titans decided to let him go, Simpkins said it would personally mean a great deal to be part of the team that gave Gold Coast people a team in the finals again.
"It will be big for the whole city. It's been a while since the Titans have been successful and played finals," the 27-year-old said of the prospect of wrapping up a finals spot this weekend.
"Over the past couple of years they've made a lot of strides off the field as a club and it's been a good year for the team on the field.
"The community's starting to get behind the team again so it will be great to cap that off with a finals appearance."
During Simpkins' stint at the Panthers he witnessed the club win the under-20s competition in 2013 and was a key member of the team that won the NSW Cup competition in 2014. That team also contained Waqa Blake, Reegan Campbell-Gillard, Isaah Yeo and Leilani Latu, players who have all become integral members of Penrith's charge in 2016.
"Even the last year I was down there (2014) was the year they made the Preliminary Final," Simpkins recalled.
"They had a bit of a poorer year last year but a lot of those young guys who are in their second or third year of NRL now are guys who were stars of the under-20s and they were coming through the NSW Cup system.
"You could always see that they were very talented players and it's just taken them a little while to become as good in first grade as they were in 20s. They're starting to reach their potential now.
"I've got a few friendships in that team I guess and it's always good to get one up over your old club.
"Both teams have played a good brand of football this year and Penrith the last few years have played that ad lib footy with lots of offloads and lots of ball movement and we've built that into our game a little bit as well.
"If we can fight fire with fire a little bit it will be good."
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