Paasi prepares to shoulder Titans load
His shoulder has failed him three times since the end of the 2016 season but after coming through his first game in three months in Round 16 Titans forward Agnatius Paasi says he is ready to test it fully against the explosive Dragons pack this Friday night.
Buying themselves a one-week stay of execution with an unconvincing win over the last-placed Wests Tigers in Campbelltown last Friday night, the Titans will effectively put their season on the line at Cbus Super Stadium this week.
With a bye awaiting them on the other side of their clash with St George Illawarra, the game provides a four-point opportunity for a team that can ill afford to drop any premiership points if they hope to play finals football.
Given they lost Leivaha Pulu due to appendicitis last week the return of Paasi was timely but getting through 35 minutes was an even more significant accomplishment.
After undertaking a shoulder reconstruction to repair a problem that plagued his 2016 season, Paasi returned slightly ahead of schedule to make the team for Round 1 but in Round 4 suffered a fracture to his shoulder blade.
Two weeks ago whilst playing for Tweed Heads in the Intrust Super Cup he thought he had damaged it again and admitted there were nerves when he ran on in the 31st minute against the Tigers.
"I was a bit nervous during that game and as the game got on I was trying to get the hit and stick and hopefully I can take it on board this week," said Paasi.
"I thought I'd just got a stinger on my shoulder [in Round 4] but unfortunately it was a fracture and that put me back two months. It was pretty tough at the time but I just got through it.
"I came back three weeks ago with the Q Cup team and unfortunately I got a cork on it again and took a rest last week and now it's just good to be back."
Although the Dragons are likely to be missing Paul Vaughan on Friday due to the calf strain he picked up in the early minutes against Newcastle on Sunday, they will bring a forward pack to the Gold Coast packing plenty of punch.
They will be bolstered by the return of Jack de Belin from a one-week suspension and with explosive ball-runners in Tyson Frizell, Tariq Sims and Leeson Ah Mau will present a great challenge to the Titans defensively.
"I know it's going to be a hard task this weekend," said Paasi, who has two wins and two tries in his three career games against the Dragons to date.
"Their forward pack are hard running and their back three are really good at getting them out from their try-line.
"We've got to be tough with our contact especially this week and hopefully get that win leading into the bye.
"This week will especially test us. If we get this win leading into the bye it will be a massive help after the bye."
After a finals appearance last season much was expected of the Titans in 2017 and centre Konrad Hurrell says they have no option but to embrace the challenge of winning seven of their last nine games to play in September for a second straight year.
"I guess it's a must-win game from now on and the boys love a challenge," said Hurrell, who scored his fourth double of the season last Friday night.
"It's not the best thing to wake up to but we've got to face it, it's reality and we just need to work hard for the next game.
"It's been a while [since we've had a win] but it's good to just boost the boys back up in the game.
"We know we can win games but just came up short the last couple of weeks.
"The winning energy vibe is good for the boys to get our hope back up and hopefully fight for that top-eight spot."