Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
4 days ago
Old wounds were reopened by Sharks skipper Paul Gallen's "grubby" act in the Titans' 18-4 NRL win over Cronulla at the Gold Coast.
Gallen's 68th minute facial massage of Titans workhorse Anthony Laffranchi's heavily bandaged head aggravated a nasty cut - and the simmering feud between the two teams.
The Titans were privately seething over Gallen's act which forced the concussed backrower off the field for good, adding to their spiteful rivalry.
"It was a bit grubby," Titans co-captain Luke Bailey said of Gallen's tackle.
A senior Gold Coast player later added: "That's how they play".
The last time they met, the Titans camp called Sharks star Greg Bird a "diver' following a heated round 24 clash.
When Bailey went to elaborate on his thoughts on his former NSW Origin roommate, Titans coach John Cartwright cut him off at the post-match press conference.
"We will just have a look at it," he said, prompting an ironic laugh from the media.
Cartwright said Laffranchi had suffered mild concussion and a "nasty cut" and is in grave doubt for their next round clash against Canberra at their new Robina home Skilled Park on Saturday night.
"He probably shouldn't have went back on the field at all, he won't remember much of it tomorrow," he said.
Bailey was keeping his fingers crossed that Laffranchi would not be sidelined.
"When he's not there, you can tell straight away," he said.
"As soon as he goes off it's like you are missing two players.
"He keeps hitting behind the ruck and offloading at will. I just knew he wasn't there, and you miss that a great deal."
Laffranchi's battle with Gallen began in the ninth minute when the backrower suffered the shocking cut across his left eye in a head clash with the Sharks skipper.
He bravely came back late in the match but earned no favours from Gallen who pushed into Laffranchi's head in a tackle that earned the ire of referee Jason Robinson.
Co-captain Scott Prince potted over the penalty kick with 12 minutes left on the clock to end any chance of a rousing Sharks comeback.
Gallen was still shaking his head over the incident after the match.
"I just put my hand on his head to get up, happens every tackle," he said.
Cartwright expected the Titans to get "down and dirty" against the Sharks, coached by his former Sydney Roosters mentor Ricky Stuart.
"We were playing probably the form side of the competition," he said.
"I was thinking before the game that I knew it was going to be a tight game and we haven't won a lot of tight games.
Backrower Reece Williams and pivot Brett Seymour (both knee) then broke down.
Stuart's anxiety Saturday night was not helped by Blake Green suffering what appeared to be an ankle injury.