NRL: Finals heartbreak will only make the Titans stronger

Column: @Hayward_AdamK

As a Cowboys supporter, I know how finals heartbreak feels, especially when woeful refereeing contributes to a season-ending result.

The Titans were cruelled by a few refereeing howlers in the first week of the finals – none bigger than referee Adam Gee either missing or allowing the Roosters to form a ‘wall’ in front of the play-the-ball to block defenders from spoiling a field goal attempt from halfback, Sam Walker.

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But Justin Holbrook and his players should not use that as an excuse from their heartbreaking finals exit, as they were their own worst enemy at various stages throughout the game.

Star recruit Tino Fa’asuamaleaui made three crucial handling errors coming out of yardage – two of which led to Roosters points. A Brian Kelly handling error led to the Roosters slotting the match-winning field goal.

And with seconds remaining, centre Patrick Herbert received the ball with a three-on-one overlap and only one other defender coming across as cover, but he decided not to pass to David Fifita on his outside who would have steamrolled over or Corey Thompson who would have strolled over untouched to win the game.

The butchered try of all butchered tries – season over.

2021 NRL Elimination Final, Roosters v Titans

The positive for the Titans, is they will be hurting.

Yes, that is a positive because they will use that hurt as a learning experience, as fuel and motivation to work harder and to get better. But most importantly, they will never want to feel that hurt again.

The Cowboys were in a similar position in 2012.

They were a team building to something special, only to have their premiership dreams ripped away from them with the infamous ‘Hand of Foran’ decision in their semi-final loss to Manly.

In a 2013 Elimination Final, it was the ‘7-tackle set’ debacle when the Sharks scored from an extra tackle they should not have had, which proved to be the difference.

Then in 2014 a controversial knock-on call made by the video referee, which many argued was a knocked-back, denied Johnathan Thurston a match winning try – but unfortunately ended their season again.

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The point is those finals heartbreaks did not break the Cowboys spirit – it only made them tougher, stronger, and hungrier for success. They went on to win their maiden premiership in 2015.

For the Titans, hopefully it will not take them three seasons of finals heartbreak before they challenge for a premiership. I am absolutely confident their finals loss to the Roosters will make them a tougher, stronger, and a hungrier team in 2022.

To use a hypothetical situation, had they have won their elimination final, then went on to lose comfortably the next week – they may have felt content. They may have felt the season was a success and they would perhaps go into preseason training with the risk of complacency, thinking they will naturally improve, and success is a formality.

The hurt of losing in the manner which they lost, means they go into preseason with a completely different mindset.

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Like the Cowboys of 2015, this Gold Coast Titans team need to quickly move on from the heartbreak and misfortune, raise their game to a new level and make a statement to rest of the competition.

Titans fans, I say this to you – stay loyal and stick by your team. They will back better than ever. And stick by those players who made those unfortunate errors because I can assure you, they will be driven to improve and to make amends.

The team is stacked with some of the most exciting young talent in the entire competition, with the additions of a quality dummy-half in Aaron Booth and the much-needed experience of back-to-back premiership winning forward, Isaac Liu who will help guide this young gun forward pack.

That premiership window is opening for the Gold Coast Titans.

Gold Coast Titans Logo: titans.com.au