Dodging wooden spoon motivating Titans: Proctor
Gold Coast back-rower Kevin Proctor admits escaping the wooden spoon has become a motivating factor for a side that was predicted to be on the "up" but is now just two competition points clear of last.
With a young team developing under first-season coach Garth Brennan, the Titans were expected to be late-season bloomers in 2018. That was certainly the prediction of Brennan who regularly said "we'll be a better team in the second half of the season than the first half".
Instead, a 36-12 win over the Warriors in round 20 is the side's only victory from their past six matches.
The heart-breaking 17-16 loss against fifth-placed Penrith last Saturday has them in the danger zone when it comes to the wooden spoon.
Their points differential of -112 is better than only the Knights (-137) - who are two points ahead of them on the ladder. It is 10 points superior to a North Queensland side they play in the final round at Cbus Super Stadium.
They are in that situation, according to Proctor, because of the "little things" that have cost them.
"The wooden spoon is at the back of our minds now, when not long ago we thought we could be playing finals," Proctor said.
"It's a scary one because we're not a wooden spoon team. But with only four points between the bottom seven sides, we can't ignore it.
"We owe it to our fans not to end up with the wooden spoon because we have been in so many games we should have won.
"Not paying attention to the little things on those games has proven the difference between playing in the finals and now having to ensure we don't get the spoon. Hopefully, we can finish with some momentum that we can take into next year."
The New Zealand Test veteran could not put a finger on why the Titans haven't found any consistency this season.
"We have to learn to win those games, and it is a lot to do with the inexperience of a lot of players in the team but we will be better for it next year. It's not just experience, it's footy smarts as well.
"Like shooting out at Jimmy Maloney on the last tackle [in the play they let to Penrith's 80th-minute try] when running it is the last thing you want him to do, especially like a team like the Panthers who are really good at ad-lib footy.
"There is no real excuse for errors we're making at times. Penrith gave us enough ball to really put them to the sword but when they made errors we were making errors back."
State of Origin prop Jarrod Wallace feels the rebuilt Titans, who have only five players from 2016 in their line-up - Ryan James, Nathan Peats, Anthony Don, Ash Taylor and Konrad Hurrell - are making progress.
"I think we're getting there, we still have quite a few guys finding their way in the NRL and how to close out games like that one on the weekend," Wallace said.
"As we showed against the Warriors we can do it, but we have to be more consistent.
"We are good enough to be winning those games now. The frustrating thing is we do it for a week then go away from it for two or three, then we do it again. It's been like that for the last two seasons.
"I don't know if it is a mental thing, a confidence thing, or we have a few bodies that are tired.
"But I do know it's a learning curve for us and we are playing well more often than we did last year. We have to start trusting and believing in what works for us."