25 hours ago
Off the Wall
Much of the focus in recent weeks has been on the achievements of the Raiders and the Roosters this season - with the Raiders storming home in the last eight or nine rounds of the season, and the Roosters going from discredited "wooden spooners" in 2009 to a very credible 6th place this season.
The Warriors have done well also - but in my view the real achievers of 2010 have been the Gold Coast Titans. Before you rush in to accuse me of "north of the border" bias, read my reasons for this view.
The Titans are the newest NRL team. This is just their fourth season. They finished in 3rd place last season - but bombed out comprehensively in the finals.
This year the Titans have finished in fourth place on the table. A mid-season slump has been turned around and the Titans are in as good form as any other club going into the finals.
But the Titans deserve extra credit for their on-field performance because of the off-field dramas the club has had to address in 2010.
Being the one club in a large city has its advantages - sponsorship, and saturation local media coverage. But when there are off field dramas there is maximum publicity as well.
That has been the lot of the Titans in season 2010.
The dispute over the clubs Centre of Excellence has been dragged through the courts, and over a three month period probably attracted the front page or back page headlines more than a dozen times in that period...and it featured prominently on the nightly TV news as well.
The publicity inevitably led to speculation that the club would not survive financially...speculation that was totally wide of the mark.
When a player gets caught for behaving badly it is usually a two or three day wonder in the media - but the drama surrounding the Titans and a builder and sub-contractors dragged on for months.
During this period, the club's best player, and captain, Scott Prince, was also put under enormous pressure by the builder when it was alleged he was to have a new home built and funded in a way the breached the provisions of the salary cap.
Prince was ultimately, and comprehensively, cleared by the NRL...but the pressure he must have had to endure would have overwhelmed most of us.
The fact his on field performance did not dip one iota is to his credit.
The real credit for the way the Titans handled a difficult period should go to the head coach, John Cartwright.
Cartwright has brought to the Titans the same commitment and steel he demonstrated during a 184 game career with the Penrith Panthers (and 8 games for NSW and 19 tests for Australia).
The fact he held his team together in such a difficult environment this year needs to be acknowledged.
The Titans deserve recognition for what the team has achieved in 2010.
Others have improved more, but none has had to endure the problems the club has faced off field this year, and still finish in the top four.
They face a tough contest against the Warriors tonight - but one suspects the events of 2010 have them better prepared than they were last year to confront everything the Warriors will deliver.