Coach John Cartwright said he had no problem with a review of operations at the Titans after steering them to a 22-8 win over Newcastle.
Coach John Cartwright said he welcomed a review of operations at the Gold Coast after the Titans scored a stoic 22-8 victory over Newcastle at Hunter Stadium on Sunday in the centrepiece game of the NRL’s Rise For Alex round.
In Alex McKinnon’s return to Newcastle for the first time since suffering his spinal injury in March, the Titans spoiled the Knights’ party to keep their finals hopes alive.
Early season table-toppers the Titans recorded just one win from their last eight starts before their trademark, grinding, four-tries-to-two defeat of the Knights that ended the home side’s finals chances before 26,401 fans.
The dramatic slide had led to Gold Coast boss Graham Annesley publicly announcing the review last week, with the tenure of Cartwright, who still has two more seasons to go on his contract, seemingly in the crosshairs.
But the former Penrith premiership winner said he only wanted what was best for the club.
“It is not about me, it is about the club,” Cartwright said.
“I don’t like seeing where it is either. I welcome whatever they do to make it better. I’m just extremely proud of the playing group
“They responded. I have seen similar situations where that type of announcement is made and players start to form little groups but they got together as one and that was a really, really tough win
“I hope that is all you write about how tough it was to come here and win with everything going on around and what went on during the week.
“That was as good a win as we have ever had.”
McKinnon led the teams out onto Hunter Stadium and shed a tear as the crowd chanted his name, but it was the Titans that responded best to the emotionally-charged atmosphere rather than his Knights teammates.
Anthony Don put the visitors ahead 6-0 after 20 minutes when James Roberts raced his way around and then through the Knights line before dishing off to his winger in a 70m movement.
Man of the match Dave Taylor, in arguably his best effort in a Titans jersey, crashed over in the 33rd minute to hand the Gold Coast a 12-0 halftime lead.
They extended that to 16-0 in the 53rd minute when Mark Minichiello scored after sustained pressure on the Knights line before the home side finally sparked to life.
Centre BJ Leilua bustled his way over in the 61st minute and Tyrone Roberts added to that with 10 minutes to go to bridge the gap to 16-8, but the Knights playmaker missed the crucial conversion in the tricky winds.
On a cold, grey day James Roberts sealed the win in the 79th minute when he chased down a Daniel Mortimer grubber.
Cartwright later revealed he had borrowed from a Phil Gould tactic when he was at the Panthers after the Newcastle earthquake and deliberately ordered a late arrival for his team in a bid to avoid the hype and emotion of the occasion and focus on their preparations.
“We did pay a lot of attention to the occasion but we didn’t get lost in it and get carried away with it but enjoyed it,” he said.
Knights coach Wayne Bennett was baffled by his side’s lacklustre performance, accusing them of “raining on their own parade”.
Five-eighth Jarrod Mullen said Newcastle didn’t handle the occasion well.
“We were definitely out enthused in the first half,” he said.
“I thought we were coming back there in the second half but a couple of crucial errors at crucial moments, I suppose it has been the story of our season.
“It was definitely tough, when the crowd went up and I looked over at Maca and he was shedding a tear, it was all very emotional.
“It was tough to see, but it is good to see him doing well.”