The Gold Coast Titans’ crippled financial state descended further into the abyss yesterday after a team of NRL accountants unearthed millions of dollars of hidden debt in the embattled football club.
While Titans boss Michael Searle has long been adamant the club’s difficulties are confined to the its property arm and its Centre of Excellence, NRL chief executive David Gallop told The Daily Telegraph an audit this week had shown all aspects of the business were under “considerable financial stress” with the total debt estimated at $35 million.
It comes amid an increasing belief that Melbourne Storm halfback Cooper Cronk has already signed a three-year deal with the Titans, despite deep concerns about the club’s future.
While Gallop couldn’t guarantee the Titans’ current playing roster would all be paid, he said he was confident contract payments would be met.
The Storm had feared that the South Sydney Rabbitohs would snatch Cronk from under their noses because of the influence of Craig Bellamy’s former understudy Michael Maguire.
But that has changed, so much so that there was a strong belief out of the Storm yesterday that the Titans had become “frontrunners” to sign their halfback, who has been in white-hot form.
Searle – who did not return calls last night – has a close relationship with Cronk’s manager Chris Orr, based on the Gold Coast.
Working in the Titans’ favour is Orr has the ability to secure numerous lucrative third-party agreements.