ORANGE’S Dan Mortimer admitted to a slightly bittersweet feeling after he led his Gold Coast Titans to a 22-8 upset over the Newcastle Knights at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
With NRL’s Rise For Alex round, to support paralysed Newcastle second-rower Alex McKinnon, providing the Knights extra motivation, Mortimer’s Titans produced a stellar performance to secure victory in front a parochial Novacastrian crowd which had earlier stood and chanted McKinnon’s name in unison as Knights skipper Kurt Gidley wheeled him onto the field prior to kick-off.
“I’ve only met Alex a few times, but it was a very emotional experience for everyone,” Mortimer said.
“Seeing the whole crowd chant Alex’s name and him getting wheeled out with tears in his eyes, I’m definitely not the only one who teared up a bit before kick-off.
“It was amazing to be a part of, and to see exactly what the rugby league community can do together, especially Newcastle fans.
“It’s a strong, proud rugby league town and I’m sure the players and fans would all be disappointed we got the result, they were supposed to win that game.
“At the end of the day it’s a rugby league game, we went out to win, but it was incredible to be able to play in that stadium and support the cause.”
Titans’ coach John Cartwright took a novel approach to his team’s preparation, choosing to arrive at the ground much later than usual to avoid his players being caught up emotionally.
It’s a trick Cartwright adapted from Phil Gould, and one Mortimer said has served the Titans well.
“We’ve done it for a couple of away games, just getting strapped and staying longer at the hotel,” Mortimer explained.
“It stops us getting caught up, and I think it works. I think that pressure, and expectation, got to Newcastle a bit. They were playing great footy leading into that round.”
Mortimer said the win is crucial to the 12th-placed Titans’ finals hopes but said his side can, and will need to, improve dramatically
“We’ve won two from four since I arrived, against Souths and Newcastle, so we can certainly get better,” he said.
“We need to be better if we are to feature in finals games, and with me working on combinations with the rest of the side I think it can only improve.
“It’s been great since I got here, all the boys have welcomed me in, they’re all great blokes. “The facilities are incredible up here and I’m settling in really well off the field.”