Gold Coast’s unexpected NRL finals bid might be a surprise to many, but not to those in the team.
The Titans were installed as pre-season wooden spoon favourites by bookmakers.
And the loss of key half Kane Elgey to a season-ending knee injury and a contract bungle that let star back James Roberts leave to join Brisbane had many doubting Gold Coast’s ability to compete in 2016.
But young half Ashley Taylor’s fine first half of the year and coach Neil Henry’s ability to install a tough-to-beat mentality has confounded those expectations.
Last weekend’s defeat to Parramatta in Darwin may have punted the Titans outside the top eight, and they go into Monday’s home clash with Manly in 10th place, but they are behind eighth-placed Penrith on percentage only.
Forward Ryan Simpkins says their form hasn’t caught those within the club off guard.
“I don’t think we’ve exceeded our own expectations. Maybe some other people’s we have,” Simpkins said.
“We’ve been playing a good brand of football all year and been competitive in every game we’ve played.”
Simpkins missed most of last season with a serious knee injury but will make his return to first grade against the Sea Eagles off the bench.
The 27-year-old says it’s been frustrating being limited to spectator duties during his injury layoff and he can’t wait to get back on the field.
“The best way to try and do it is just to rip in there from the start,” he said.
“First grade’s another step up from the Queensland Cup level and if you go out there and try and ease yourself into it, the game can pass you by.
“(I’m going to) have to try and go out there and get stuck in straight away.”