The Gold Coast Titans are facing the worst start to a season in their history but high performance and culture chief Mal Meninga remains upbeat and insists "anything is possible" as they welcome back Tyrone Roberts and Ash Taylor.
The Titans, aiming for their first win of the season against the Warriors in Auckland on Friday night, have not lost four games to start the season in their short history. In 2011 they lost their opening three games and went on to finish last.
Only three sides in rugby league history have come back from an 0-3 start to win the competition – Newtown (1933), South Sydney (1953) and North Queensland (2015). The Newtown side lost their opening four games, the only side to have done so before then going on to be premiers.
Over the past four seasons, the Titans have been sluggish starters going 1-2 each year except for 2016 when they won two of their first three.
"I saw some stats where the Cowboys came from 15th [in 2015] after round three to win and the the Sharks came from 13th [in 2016] to win it, and we are only two points outside the eight," Meninga told NRL.com.
"I know we haven’t won a game … but that is the closeness of the competition.
"We don’t expect miracles out of Ash and Tyrone this week if they play. We want all the other players to contribute, but if they start to become a cohesive unit and we keep our best players on the footy field then anything is possible. We know in rugby league that the spine is really important so having them back will lead to a better performance.”
Meninga said he had been heartened by the work ethic and leadership qualities of Taylor this pre-season.
"I have been really impressed with Ash with his work physically over the off-season and he is in a really good mental state at the moment. I have sat in a few meetings with the team and he has been vocal, which is showing some really good leadership qualities," Meninga told NRL.com.
"You need to be vocal, playing the position he does in his team. From that he is pretty assertive so he is heading in the right direction."
The Titans almost stole a win in the 28-20 loss to the Rabbitohs on Sunday, a narrow defeat where Meninga saw several positive signs after the side fought back to within four points of the Rabbitohs in the second-half.
"If you’ve got a good attitude you want to put your body in positions and do all those little things in a game that are important for success, and I thought they started to do that on the weekend and nearly won the game.
"[The start to the season] has been disappointing, but we all live in hope. We believe, down there. We just have to make sure this team hangs in there, plays tough and keeps working hard and our luck will change."