Wests Tigers settle in for nervous wait
After producing a remarkable come-from-behind win in New Zealand to keep their finals hopes alive, Wests Tigers players are readying for a nervous wait on Saturday night watching the Titans travel to Townsville.
The Tigers need the Cowboys to down the resilient Gold Coast outfit to keep their own season alive when they host the in-form Raiders at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday afternoon.
The experience will be a particularly unusual one for former Titan Jordan Rankin, who will need his old club – which still boasts many of his close mates – to suffer a season-ending loss to keep his own side's season alive.
"The Titans are my former team, I watch them play every week. I've got some really good friends in that side and obviously the result plays a major impact on what we're going to do but in saying that we've got to worry about our performances first before anything else," Rankin said.
Asked about how he will feel having to cheer on his old mates to lose, Rankin added: "That's the nature of the beast, that's how footy rolls. It's the tightest I've seen the competition in a lot of years. It's good for the game and fingers crossed."
It's no secret the Titans will be up against it as they look to win at a ground where the home side has lost just once this year.
"They're a hard team to beat regardless of where they're playing so they've come into a bit of form and 'JT' (Johnathan Thurston) has found himself back into form which we all knew he would. So it's going to be a really good game to watch," Rankin added.
Halfback Luke Brooks was another who was bracing to settle in on Saturday night to learn his team's finals chances.
"Definitely [I will be]. I was watching the Penrith and Titans game the other day (eventually won 15-14 by Penrith at Cbus Super Stadium)," Brooks said.
"They were up 14-0 so I thought we were pretty safe and I went down to get a massage and then before I knew it, it was 14-all and I started crapping myself so I'll be watching this game and riding home the Cowboys!"
Centre Tim Simona said he wasn't going to let factors out of his control become a distraction as the team would be looking to put in a strong performance for what will hopefully be a huge home crowd either way.
"We're not really too focused about the Titans," Simona said.
"Obviously we want Titans to lose but as a team we can't really focus on that, we want to prepare well against Canberra."
Simona is also hoping that while the Cowboys can down the Titans, the Tigers can replicate the kind of form they showed in an upset win over the Cowboys in what was their most recent game at Leichhardt.
"It's one of my favourite placed to play, Leichhardt Oval, so I'm hoping for a sell-out crowd. It's a big game and I'm looking forward to it," he said.
"The crowd gave us a lot of energy and hopefully we can put another good performance as we did against the Cowboys."
That game is also remembered fondly by Rankin.
"The crowd played a big role in how we played that day - they got behind us and it's a pretty hostile crowd to play in front of when you come to Leichhardt so as long as they turn out for us it will be a good one," Rankin said.