NRL: Chance to show true mettle

By Michael Brown

After a tough start, Warriors coach hopes clash with Gold Coast will be start of a string of wins.

The return of Simon Mannering will boost the team.  Photo / Getty Images
The return of Simon Mannering will boost the team. Photo / Getty Images

There's a widespread belief the Warriors are much better than their position on the NRL ladder suggests and Sunday's home game against Gold Coast is a chance to prove it.

The Titans are travelling reasonably well, having won four of their seven games to sit in seventh, but they were well beaten at home 30-6 by Newcastle last weekend and have played five of their seven games at Skilled Park.

The Warriors are emerging from a tough period that has seen them lose to Souths (24-22), Canberra (20-16) and Melbourne (28-18) over the last three weeks - three games they had chances to win.

It's often said there are no easy games in the NRL but matches against Gold Coast (H), the Bulldogs (H), Penrith (A) and Newcastle (H) over the coming month represent an "easier" run and a chance to make some progress up a ladder they don't believe they should be propping up.

They will need to improve in many areas if they are to do this, not least of all individual errors at the end of games and mental strength.

"We say that to a winning performance, we need to add a winning mindset and winning execution at key times of the game," coach Matt Elliott said recently.

"I honestly see greater levels of consistency and our professionalism starting to raise to a standard that gives us an opportunity to be consistent. The next bit is the mindset of winning and not deviating from that. At the moment we have some work to do in that area.

"Morale is great. If I said to you confidence was great, I would be a little disingenuous there. You gain confidence from winning. You can play fantastic and lose and it knocks your confidence around. We need to string some wins together."

The Warriors have done that against Gold Coast, comfortably winning the last four meetings between the two sides since 2011. The Titans won the previous six back to 2008.

Gold Coast will be without up to eight first-team regulars on Sunday, including Ashley Harrison and Luke O'Dwyer, but they still boast plenty of firepower with the likes of Luke Bailey, Greg Bird, Jamal Idris, David Taylor and Nate Myles.

The Warriors have also had issues with injuries but the treatment table is starting to clear up with the return of captain Simon Mannering and winger Manu Vatuvei. The veterans last played in the 20-16 loss to Canberra on April 13.

Mannering has been sidelined with a calf injury and Vatuvei missed last week's match against the Storm with a sternum complaint.

In his last outing against the Raiders, he scored two tries to lift his club record to 104 tries. His return on the left wing puts rookie Ngani Laumape on a five-man interchange.

"It means moving Ngani out of the starting line-up, which was a difficult choice," said Elliott. "He has done a terrific job for us since coming into the side."

Mannering joins Feleti Mateo in the second row while Ben Henry, who replaced the captain against the Storm, will start in the centres with Konrad Hurrell now due to turn out for the Auckland Vulcans in their New South Wales Cup match against Cronulla in Sydney on Saturday.

Elliott said it was all part of Hurrell's development. "There's no question he's going to be a long-term first-grade player. This is a chance for him to consolidate his game."

The return of Mannering and Vatuvei was a boost. "They're hugely important to the team with their experience and the contribution they make to our effort."

For just the second time since early June last year, the Warriors will have their four 100-game-plus props Sam Rapira, Russell Packer, Ben Matulino and Jacob Lillyman operating as a unit. APNZ

- APNZ

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