Penrith have something that the Titans don’t and it may end up costing Garth Brennan his job.
As Queensland threatened to stage another trademark comeback in Sydney on Wednesday night, NSW five-eighth James Maloney gathered his troops and put the plans in place to create an unforgettable Origin moment of their own.
Brennan expects Maloney to back up for the Panthers less than 48 hours after the 26-20 victory and Nathan Cleary to return from injury as the Titans look to fight back from a disappointing loss to Manly.
Level with the Bulldogs on just 10 competition points at the foot of the Telstra Premiership ladder and with a mid-season review to be tabled on Monday, pressure continues to mount on Brennan.
It could have been very different had the Titans been able to convert big leads against Wests Tigers (14-0), Sharks (18-10) and Bulldogs (18-0) into six competition points with a leader such as Maloney able to turn momentum back their way at crucial times.
"The handling of momentum has been the tough one,” Brennan said of the side’s lack of wins this season.
“Ryan James has missed the majority of the year, Nathan Peats was out for 10 weeks and Ash [Taylor] has been in and out all year.
"Those senior players give the younger guys a bit of belief and a bit of confidence when they're around and when they're not there it affects the belief of the football team at times when momentum changes.
"I heard Tom Trbojevic say after the game [on Wednesday night] that James Maloney got them behind the line and said, 'Boys, this is what we're doing'.
"That leadership is something that at times we've lacked with guys being out injured. Someone like Maloney stepping up and saying, 'This is what needs to be done' and they got the job done.
"At times we've been lacking that due to the fact that our senior boys have been missing a fair bit of footy.”
Cleary hasn’t played since injuring his ankle in Origin II but was named by coach Ivan Cleary in jersey No.21 on Penrith’s extended bench, a jersey Brennan is anticipating will take the field at Panthers Stadium.
Still without Tyrone Peachey due to a pec strain and Michael Gordon awaiting a final blood test before he gets the all-clear, the Titans welcome back Dale Copley in the centres with Phil Sami retaining his position on the wing.
"Phil Sami's an enormous talent. I've got a lot of respect for Phil and what he brings to the team,” said Brennan.
"He's had a bit of a disjointed year but he got his opportunity last game and he just brings that little bit of X-factor. He's a terrific finisher, he's fast, he's strong, he brings the ball back very well.
"The two wingers for Penrith bring that to their team so hopefully Phil can do the same thing for us.
"We'll be preparing as though they'll have their strongest side out there but we've got to play better than we have as well.
"We understand the threats that Penrith bring but at the end of the day we've got to be better than we were last time we played against Manly.
"If we don't perform better it doesn't matter who we're playing.”