Time for the Gold Coast to give up on sports
Kade Snowden fends off Mark Minichiello : Round 25 Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks V Gold Coast Titans National Rugby League match at Toyota Stadium, Cronulla, Saturday August 28th 2010. Digital Pic by Robb Cox Â© Action Photographics.
And so a mighty empire crumbles, like a soggy arrowroot. It’s sad to see the Gold Coast Titans struggling with financial woes, reportedly in debt to the tune of $25 million and forced to sell off everything they can, including holiday packages for a romantic weekend getaway in Surfers Paradise with John Cartwright.
It is especially sad for those of us who remember the glory days of Gold Coast rugby league.
Remember the dash and flair of the Gold Coast Giants and/or Seagulls and/or Chargers? The scything open-field running of Clinton Mohr? The ingenious playmaking of Peter Gill? The cheeky bursts of Geoffrey “Geoff” Bagnall? Remember the rock-solid reliability of Brett Horsnell?
No, me either.
In fact, I can barely remember anything about the Giants/Seagulls/Chargers. I didn’t even remember they were ever called the Chargers until I looked it up on Wikipedia. They were probably the least memorable Australian rugby league team since the short-lived Mt Druitt Beagles.
And there’s the rub.
The Coast’s first stab at league went down the tubes, un-mourned. The second is in dire straits. Meanwhile, in the A-League, Gold Coast United is even now in the process of being buried at sea, killed by a combination of the hubris of owner Clive Palmer and the fact that nobody on the face of the earth ever had the slightest interest in them.
The signs are clear: we may have to consider the possibility that sport and the Gold Coast just don’t mix.
Oh, if the Titans go down of course there’ll still be sport up there. The Gold Coast Suns aren’t going anywhere, given Andrew Demetriou’s determination to continue slapping every Australian across the face with hundred-dollar bills until they come round to his way of thinking.
But if they thrive it’ll be down to the AFL’s sheer bloody-mindedness, and possibly the club’s usefulness as a money-laundering operation, not because the populace has suddenly started spontaneously bursting into ‘Up There, Cazaly’.
There’s also apparently a basketball team on the Gold Coast, although like all Australian basketball teams, its existence has yet to be independently confirmed.
No, the fact is, the Gold Coast just isn’t built for sport. It’s temperamentally unsuited to the establishment of professional franchises. People go to the Gold Coast to get away from sport, from the bitter exhaustion and inevitable disappointment of following a team. People go to the Gold Coast to relax, to lie on the beach and eat ice-cream and occasionally slip tranquillisers into schoolgirls’ drinks.
The Gold Coast isn’t like western Sydney, where sport is the only thing distracting the citizenry from the awful fact that they live in western Sydney: on the Gold Coast sport just gets in the way of cooler, less strenuous, more morally questionable activities that don’t require you to buy a scarf.
And the pity is, there are so many other regions in Australia just crying out for an AFL or NRL or A-League team, that get passed over due to the fixation on the Gold Coast. And I don’t just mean Tasmania – I don’t really consider them part of Australia, what with their being a bit of water between there and here – they can please themselves.
I mean good, honest, sports-loving, salt-of-the-earth places. Like Frankston. Frankston is a thriving metropolitan area that produces Australia’s finest hot chips and is rightly considered the nation’s capital of men with ragged beards shuffling around asking people for change. They would take to a major footballing franchise like a duck to water.
With the support of the good people of Frankston, including the catchments of Seaford and Langwarrin, the Frankston Carp would be a powerhouse inside five years, no matter what sport they played.
Or how about Holbrook? Nestled snugly in the Dirt Belt of rural New South Wales, Holbrook, already a major tourist drawcard due to its famous landlocked submarine and ample parking, could spark football fever in the bush if allowed to have a go at hosting a major team.
The local oval would quickly become a fortress, with opposing teams fearing a trip to do battle with the Holbrook depth charges, as the local population flocked in droves to the ground, driven by the fact there is literally nothing else to do in Holbrook.
But really I think the prime location for Australia’s new sporting stronghold is just a little to the north: the Sunshine Coast. The Gold Coast’s little brother is ready to step up and assume the mantle.
Blessed with both a less pretentious name than the Gold Coast, and a refreshing lack of theme parks to draw punters away from the footy, the Sunshine Coast, currently populated by a friendly and slightly confused group of people who spend most of their time milling around trying to remember whether they’re supposed to be servicing the tourist trade or working on a dairy farm, could quickly be transformed into a bunch of rabid footballing nuts that would make the Newcastle Knights fan-base look like the Hunter Mariners’.
So, dear AFL, NRL and A-League, give up on the Gold Coast. It’s a lost cause, too glitzy, too aloof, too drunk. Head up the highway, and let the sun shine in. From Maroochydore to Caboolture, let the whistle blow, let the pigskin soar, and let the merchandise sell.
Or of course we could try Tennant Creek…
Ben Pobjie is a writer and comedian writing weekly on The Age, New Matilda and The Roar, whose promising rugby career was tragically cut short the day he stopped playing rugby and had a pizza instead. The most he has ever cried was the day Balmain lost the 1989 grand final. Today he enjoys the frolics of Wallabies, Swans, baggy greens, and Storms. Ben is also the author of the books Surveying the Wreckage, Superchef, and his latest, The Book of Bloke, available from Momentum Books.
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