Yes, you read the title correctly. The narrative that sporting teams can’t succeed on the Gold Coast is incorrect.
The problem has never been the Gold Coast; it’s always been the people in charge. They simply haven’t got it right, from the club’s previous incarnations – the Giants, Seagulls and Chargers – to previous and current Titans administrations.
When you think about it the Titans have a lot going for them as far as resources required to build a strong club.
The players train out of a $25 million state-of-the-art high-performance centre which also houses their administration. They are blessed with the world-class 27,400-seat capacity Cbus Super Stadium in Robina, which is one of the best grounds in Australia to watch rugby league.
The club is finically stable, owned by the multi-millionaire Kelly and Frizelle families, who are passionate about the Titans and devoted advocates of the Gold Coast, and there’s the development of a league club and community centre, which will ensure the club’s long-term sustainability and rich multi-year sponsorships and corporate partners.
So let’s put the lack of on-field success aside for a moment and start with other areas where the club needs to improve. There’s been plenty of discussion regarding the club’s identity or lack thereof and what they need to do to build an identity.
The important questions that need to be asked are as follows. Who are the Gold Coast Titans? Should they be considered as a club that represents Queensland and bleeds maroon under their aqua jerseys? Or is it a club representing not only the Gold Coast but also the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales as well?
Perhaps it’s time for the Titans to forget about embracing the notion of representing Queensland and state pride just because they’re based in Queensland.
The first part to building an identity is that they must actively expand their brand from suburban Gold Coast to the Hinterland, Beaudesert, Tweed Heads, Kingscliff, Lismore, Byron Bay, Ballina, Grafton and perhaps all the way down to Coffs Harbour, all fast-growing regions with a combined population of around a million people who need to be engaged by the Titans as their NRL representatives.
The next part is building a roster on the back off the plethora of local talent at their disposal and developing junior talent to become future Titans. They have a huge junior base, with junior rugby league competitions on the Gold Coast, Tweed, Northern Rivers and Toowoomba.
These regions have had plenty of success in the lower grades, with young talent signed to the Titans Elite Development System (TEDS).
They have two feeder clubs, the Burleigh Bears, who won the QRL premiership in 2016 and are currently sitting second on the Intrust Super Cup ladder, and the Tweed Head Seagulls, who are also challenging for a finals spot this season.
The Titans already have a solid foundation, with several players who are from or have played their junior footy on the Gold Coast and northern New South Wales areas, including Ryan James, Will Mathews, Keegan Hipgrave, Kevin Proctor, Jarrod Wallace, Jai Whitebread, Tyrone Roberts, Tanah Boyd, Brian Kelly and, perhaps most importantly, Jai Arrow.
Jai Arrow, a Burleigh Bears junior, becomes a free agent from 1 November and already has several Sydney clubs ready to pounce on the Queensland Origin lock for the 2021 season. Arrow must be viewed as a long-term Titans player and a potential future captain of the club, so his signature on a long-term contract must be a top priority.
Moeaki Fotuaika and AJ Brimson are superstars in the making, and Ash Taylor, for all the criticism levelled at him over the past 12 months, is a proven matchwinner and could be a matchwinner for years to come with the right guidance and mentorship.
Their roster management has been under the spotlight in recent times, but there’s a very promising core group of players which the club can build around despite some poor decisions made with their recruitment.
And, finally, the team must win back lost fans and grow their supporter base.
The myth that the Titans don’t have any fans is exactly that, a myth. In the club’s first four years, from 2007 to 2010, they averaged a home crowd of 20,040, which was the second-highest in the NRL during that period.
In 2015 the Titans outperformed the Sharks, Warriors, Raiders and Tigers with total memberships, but while those clubs have since significantly improved their membership numbers, the Titans stagnated between 10,000 and 11,000 members before slumping to under 8000 this season.
So the fans exist, but they’re currently in hibernation and disconnected from the club.
To state the bleeding obvious, the way the Titans can reconnect with those fans and grow their fan-base is with on-field success – the right coach; the right structures; well-thought-out player recruitment, retention, development and basic roster management; and star players living up to not only their potential but also their price tag as well.
With the sacking of coach Garth Brennan, the appointment of the next coach could be the most important decision not only in Titans history but also in the history of rugby league in the region. The next coach must oversee immediate and significant on-field improvement.
But that improvement shouldn’t wait until a new coach is appointed for 2020. At the time of writing there are still eight rounds to go this season. The playing group must galvanise under interim co-coaches Luke Bert and Craig Hodges to lift themselves off the bottom of the ladder and show a bit of pride in the jersey.
It all comes down to attitude, both individually and collectively. Some of these players could be playing for their futures at the club considering roster surgery is usually conducted when a new coach joins a club to ensure they get the team they want.
On paper there is enough talent in this side to be challenging for a top-eight spot, but they have catastrophically failed. They’re currently dead last on the ladder and owe it to the loyal fans who have stuck by them to finish the season with some of the good performances they’re capable of.
The best marketing tool to win support for your club is to win games. The blueprint for success is there for the Titans; it’s now up to every single person involved within the club to finally get it right on and off the field.
If they do get it right, the Gold Coast Titans can become an NRL powerhouse with long-term sustainability and success.