Attitude is everything.

In sport, we use terms such as ”focus on the process”, ”stay in the moment”, ” don’t dwell on the past”, ”don’t get your head too far into the future”. Cliches aimed at simplifying the task, maintaining balance, removing pressure and concentrating on the job at hand.

In my regular column in The Sun-Herald on Sunday I previewed the much-anticipated clash this Friday between top-of-the-table contenders the Sydney Roosters and South Sydney. We, as footy fans, have been looking forward to this massive clash on the eve of this year’s finals series.

But, as I talked through the possibilities this contest could deliver, I pointed to the fact that the Roosters couldn’t afford to be thinking about this game just yet, because they still had a game to play on Sunday afternoon.

My warning went: ”Of course, the Roosters cannot be thinking about this match yet. They still have to play a desperate Gold Coast Titans team on Sunday afternoon and, if they have their minds on the big one next Friday, they could well spill their lollies and make themselves vulnerable.”

We’ve seen a lot of this over the years. A high-flying team such as the Roosters receiving all the write-ups and accolades as they cruise past weaker opponents on their way to the big end-of-season matches. It takes a strong mind and discipline for players not to get too far ahead of themselves. I don’t want to take anything away from the Titans’ performance because they are entitled to all the platitudes one can muster to describe their courageous 30-22 victory over the Roosters.

But what I saw from the Roosters on Sunday was a totally distracted performance; not a shadow of the team that has played so brilliantly in attack and defence all season.

The home side bumbled their way through 80 minutes of football. They looked as though they were trying to get through this match with as few bruises as possible. Their normally impeccable work ethic and attention to detail has been eroded in the past couple of weeks by poor attitude and poor attitude control.

The first chink in their armour was seen the previous Monday night when Cronulla niggled them and got under their skin. Off went their heads and on went a pumpkin. They conceded 26 unanswered points in the first 40 minutes of football and the result was as good as gone.

The physicality was there but the brains were not in gear.

Maybe they just assumed that whatever ailed them on that night would be readily fixed in time for their clash with the Titans. Maybe they were dismissive of the understrength Titans and had their heads in this Friday’s clash with the Rabbitohs.

Maybe they were guilty of believing their own press clippings so much that individual recognition was starting to override the togetherness and team mentality that is so important to success at this level of football.

Whatever the reasons for their poor showing on Sunday, I suggest most of their problems were self-inflicted.

The Roosters played like they were waiting for their opponents to throw in the towel. Oh, how they underestimated the Titans.

Gold Coast are renowned for their grit and fighting abilities. They are a team and a group of players who command the utmost respect. When you play the Titans, you have to play to beat them, because they rarely beat themselves.

Instead, on Sunday, the Roosters offered up a dismal exhibition for their adoring fans.

The visitors, who had few people in the crowd wearing their colours and cheering their names, despite being despised outsiders with the bookies in this two-horse race, produced a gallant 80 minutes of football that was built on enthusiasm, smarts, courage and a never-give-up attitude.

Players repeatedly dragged themselves off the canvas to make one more tackle, one more run, one more chase.

When their more favoured rivals sneaked to the lead inside the last 10 minutes of play, many watching the game were getting ready to feel sorry for the Titans. After all, they had put in such a huge physical effort, only to come up short on the scoreboard.

The Titans, though, are made of much sterner stuff and they certainly were not ready to concede defeat.

They lifted to score the final two tries of the match and thoroughly deserved their victory. The Roosters? Well, they thoroughly deserved the lesson they received.

Maybe this was the reality check they had to have. Maybe this steels them for the big clash against the Rabbitohs and the even bigger challenges of play-off football beyond.

What’s certain, though, is that they will have their minds on the job this Friday night.

Attitude can change the world.

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.