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.
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-dollar, 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 of the best grounds in Australia to watch rugby league.
The club is financially stable, owned by multi-millionaire business moguls Rebecca Frizelle and Darryl Kelly, who are passionate about the Titans and devoted advocates of the Gold Coast, rich multi-year sponsorships and corporate partners and there’s the leagues club currently under development which will ensure the club’s long term sustainability.
With new ARLC chairman Peter V’landys categorically ruling out the potential of the Titans being relocated; the Gold Coast can rest easy knowing their team isn’t going anywhere.
So, putting the lack of on-field success aside for a moment to focus on other areas where the club needs to improve, starting with the club’s identity, or lack thereof and what they need to do to build an identity by asking a few important questions.
Who are the Gold Coast Titans? Should they consider themselves a Queensland club that bleeds maroon under their aqua jerseys? Or a club representing not only the Gold Coast, but also the Northern Rivers region of Northern New South Wales?
Perhaps it’s time the for the Titans to forget about embracing the notion of representing Queensland and state pride just because they’re based north of the border.
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, fast-growing regions with a combined population of around a million people, that needs to be engaged by the Titans as their NRL representatives.
Next 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’ve won two QRL premierships in the past five years (2016 and 2019) and Tweed Head Seagulls, established in 1908 and finished sixth in the 2019 QRL season.
The Titans’ 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.
They 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 regions, which includes Ryan James, Keegan Hipgrave, Kevin Proctor, Jarrod Wallace, Jai Whitebread, Tyrone Roberts, Tanah Boyd, Brian Kelly and perhaps most importantly, Jai Arrow.
Arrow, a Burleigh Bears junior, must be viewed as a long-term Titans player and a potential future captain of the club but he’s yet to be signed from 2021, with a few Sydney clubs showing genuine interest in the Queensland origin forward, however the Titans are very keen on keeping him and have tabled a four-year deal, believed to be worth around $3 million.
The likes of Moeaki Fotuaika and AJ Brimson are superstars in the making, then there’s young halfback Ash Taylor, for all the criticism levelled at him over the past 12-months, he’s a proven match-winner and with the right guidance and mentorship, can be that match-winner again for years to come.
Lack of on-field success has seen the Titans’ supporter base shrink and crowd numbers dwindle. To state the bleeding obvious, the solution for the Titans to reconnect with those fans and grow their fanbase, is to win games and challenge for a finals spot.
The myth that the Titans don’t have any fans is exactly that, a myth. In the club’s first four years from 2007-2010, 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 in 2019.
So, the fans exist but they’re currently in hibernation and disconnected from the club that has only qualified for the finals once since 2010.
The appointment of new coach Justin Holbrook could be the most important decision not only in Titans history, but in the history of top-flight rugby league in the region. He must oversee immediate and significant on-field improvement, after the club’s disastrous last-place finish in 2019.
Holbrook arrives at the Titans after achieving an 80 per cent winning record as head coach of St Helens and guiding them to the 2019 UK Super League premiership.
But moving from Super League champs to NRL wooden spooners means the pressure is already on Holbrook to bring the winning culture he built at St Helens and getting the best out of star players who have not only failed to live up to their potential, but their price tag as well.
Overall, the best marketing tool to win support and respect for your club, is to win football 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.