Schick Hydro Preview: Sydney Roosters v Gold Coast Titans
The Titans could do worse than turn to Lloyd Christmas for their pre-game pep talk this week as they start their clash with the Roosters as the longest outsiders of the season in their last game of the year.
Prior to teams being announced on Tuesday the Titans were at $6 with Sportsbet and when punters saw the team they would be trotting out against a side eyeing a top-two finish, that price quickly ballooned out to $7 within 30 minutes of squad being released and at last count had drifted out to $8.
Sporting history is littered with underdogs overcoming all odds to cause an upset and to paraphrase Lloyd's immortal words in Dumb and Dumber, as long as the Titans can send out 17 players on Saturday afternoon they are in with a chance.
In fact, they need only look back four years for inspiration to when the Titans again needed salary cap exemptions to name 17 fit players to face the Roosters in Round 25 and went on to shock the eventual premiers 30-22 on their home turf.
But a Gold Coast win this week would surpass that effort from a team that still contained representative players of the calibre of Greg Bird, Nate Myles, Luke Bailey and Dave Taylor.
Only six of the 21 Titans named on Tuesday have played more than 50 career NRL games and only Jarryd Hayne and Kevin Proctor boast top level representative experience. In making his debut Keegan Hipgrave becomes Titan No.132, the ninth Titans player to make their NRL debut this season and the 17th to have made his club debut this year.
All told Hipgrave will become the 34th player that the Titans have used this season, two more than the next worst, North Queensland, and eight more than their opponents on Saturday.
There are no such issues for Trent Robinson and his Bondi boys who have named the same side that defeated Cronulla 16-14 last weekend and who have won four of their past six matches.
A win by the Broncos on Thursday night would see the Roosters drop back into third position so the prospect of a home final in week one of the finals series should be more than enough motivation to put the Titans to the sword.
Why the Roosters can win: Healthy roster? Check. Strong form-line? Check. Motivation for a last-minute tune-up before the finals? Check. Under-strength opposition? Big check. There is no conceivable reason why the Roosters shouldn't win this game and win it very well. The Roosters had 42 per cent of the ball and completed at less than 65 per cent against the Sharks… and still won! Those stats would have to be twice as bad again to lose to a Titans team on its knees.
Why the Titans can win: For all the reasons that the Roosters should win the Titans face the opposite scenario, sending three of their best players for off-season surgery before the end of Round 26 and replacing them with five players who have played a total of 10 NRL games between them all season. The Titans have produced some miraculous victories in their 10-year history but if they could somehow scrap their way to a win on Saturday it would be the greatest the Gold Coast faithful have ever seen.
 Telstra Premiership: Boyd Cordner vs Kevin Proctor
Tackles, All Run Metres, Offloads, Tackle Breaks.
The history: Played 15; Roosters 7, Titans 8. The Roosters have been victorious in three of the past four meetings between these two teams but have won only three of the seven games against the Titans at Allianz Stadium. Luke Keary scored a double in the Roosters' 32-18 win in Round 1 to continue his happy history against the Titans, scoring five tries in six career games against Gold Coast and finishing on the winning side on four occasions. Although he doesn't boast the same win record as Keary, Titans winger Anthony Don has scored tries in four of his five games against the Roosters.
What are the odds: The Roosters are the shortest-priced side of the entire season with Sportsbet, but that hasn't stopped punters from throwing them into their multis. Roosters 13-plus fattens up the price somewhat, and 75 per cent of the money in line betting is with the Roosters as well. Latest odds at sportsbet.com.au.
Match officials: Referee: Ben Cummins; Assistant Referee: Matt Noyen; Touch Judges: Russell Turner and Rickey McFarlane; Review Official: Ashley Klein; Senior RO: Luke Patten.
Televised: Fox League – Live from 2.30pm.
NRL.com predicts: The Titans have struggled to mount much resistance in recent weeks with a competitive-looking team on paper so it doesn't bode well for a cobbled together squad featuring a third of players still eligible for under-20s. If Trent Robinson can engender the right intent in the first 40 minutes the game will likely be over by half-time and he can toy with resting some of his big names as the match draws to its inevitable conclusion. Gold Coast's worst loss in club history was the 54-0 thumping by the Broncos a month ago; it could be in danger. Roosters by 32 points.