After watching his side confound their critics at every turn this year, Neil Henry reckons Gold Coast has one last NRL surprise in store.
The Titans face premiers North Queensland on Saturday night, needing a win to confirm eighth spot and the club’s first finals appearance in six years.
It’s a position few would have expected them to be in at the start of the season, when a long-term knee injury to young gun Kane Elgey and the stench from James Roberts’ departure prompted most to write them off as wooden spoon contenders.
A win in Townsville is no easy task – the Cowboys are notoriously difficult at home, having lost just once at 1300SMILES Stadium this year.
But Henry is keeping the faith.
“I think we’ve got a game that can worry them,” he said on Friday.
“There’s points in our team, we know that.
“It’s all or nothing, we’re playing for our future.
“We really need to load up in this game or it could be our last.”
Jarryd Hayne – whose mid-season arrival on the Gold Coast helped spark the club’s overall resurgence – is expected to play despite a badly corked calf.
The Titans have travelled with a squad of 19, including David Mead, who will slot into his old position at fullback if Hayne is ruled out.
North Queensland are also sweating on their biggest star, co-captain Johnathan Thurston, who is battling tonsillitis.
Thurston didn’t complete the Cowboys’ final training session on Friday and coach Paul Green said he wouldn’t decide on him until the morning of the game.
“He’s still a bit flat. He didn’t do the whole session so he’s still not 100 per cent,” Green said.
The Cowboys are strong favourites to secure a win that would stitch up a top four position and a finals double-shot.
But Green remains cautious of the often unpredictable Titans.
“They’re a good team. They deserve to be where they are,” he said.
“Their halves aren’t afraid to take you on, their back five in particular are really good. We’ll be tested all over the park.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* The Titans last win in Townsville came in the opening round of 2012 when they became just the third team in history to hold the Cowboys scoreless at home, winning 18-nil.
* North Queensland have won 10 of 11 matches in Townsville this season – six of them by 26 points or more.
* Neil Henry has never won against the Cowboys in four attempts – three before he joined them as coach in 2009 and one last year.