Titans earned their finals spot: Friend
"It's not over yet."
Even with the Raiders leading the Wests Tigers 46-10 with three minutes to play on Sunday Titans captain Nathan Friend didn't dare to yet turn his attention to a Week One Telstra Premiership Finals showdown with the Brisbane Broncos.
A 32-16 loss to the Cowboys on Saturday night left the Titans in premiership limbo, waiting on one final result before learning their fate.
With the potential of a top two finish in the offing the Raiders responded in emphatic fashion and in the process extended the NRL career of Friend for at least one more game.
For the first time in the history of the Titans they will meet south-east Queensland rivals Brisbane in a finals match at Suncorp Stadium next week.
The only other time the Titans and Broncos have met in a finals encounter was at Cbus Super Stadium back in 2009 and it has been six long years since Gold Coast have finished the regular season in the top eight.
A half dozen Titans players watched the Tigers-Raiders game together while others returned home to spend time with their families on Father's Day, Friend describing the anxiousness of having no control of their destiny.
"I was talking to 'Birdy' (Greg Bird) in the bus back from Brisbane and it was a weird feeling," Friend told NRL.com.
"You're kind of waiting on another result which could have gone either way going into it, playing at Leichhardt.
"Of course if you're a betting man you think the Raiders would probably win with their form but when the result's out of your hands you're very anxious.
"Not even at half-time were you confident, not until probably 10 to go."
The irony for Friend is that his NRL career began as a Bronco 15 years ago and after stints with Melbourne and the Warriors now comes full circle in what will be his 121st game as a Titan.
He was a member of the inaugural Titans team in 2007 that stunned the NRL by rolling defending premiers Brisbane 28-16 in front of a crowd of 47,686 in their first meeting and is excited by what lies ahead this week.
"Playing in 'The Cauldron' is going to be fantastic," said Friend, who played his 241st NRL game on Saturday. "You add the finals to it and it takes it to another dimension.
"I'm very excited to be a part of a team that has certainly earned their spot this year.
"What's great is that it's in Queensland and we're just up the road where our supporters can follow us and get behind us.
"It would have been unfortunate if we'd had to go to Townsville or down to Sydney but it's great that it's just down the road and we should see a few more supporters for us.
"They've always been close encounters whether we played them at Suncorp or Cbus. There were a few golden-point games and unfortunately they had Darren Lockyer and he didn't miss too many.
"Obviously very excited. Being my last season and to make the finals is fantastic."
The newest member of the Titans, Jarryd Hayne, has the most finals experience at the club with eight post-season appearances for the Eels but Friend believes the young players in the squad will revel in their first taste of finals footy.
"I don't think either myself or Neil [Henry, Titans coach] need to rev them up, they know the situation and the young guys will probably thrive on it," said the 35-year-old who played in four finals matches for the Titans between 2007 and 2010.
"This is the reward for the effort we've put in and let them know that certainly our job's not done. We've presented ourselves with this opportunity so take it with two hands.
"They've got to get a feel for the finals and they'll start to realise that at the back-end of the week when they see a little bit of media around.
"They'll realise that it's a whole new ball game."
Game on. Data off.
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