GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 31: Titans Head Coach Justin Holbrook poses during the Gold Coast Titans press conference at The Titans High Performance Centre on October 31, 2019 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

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.

4 COMMENTS

  1. Adam, you are half right about embracing the local area, “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”, but you have missed some of the best juniors in areas like Logan, Toowoomba & Ipswich. Basically the Titans have not been a local Club since the late 2000’s however they were on a rising plane (pardon the pun) in 2016, until they recruited the other Plane! They need to play winning football and at the moment they are not. To be frank they have recruited poorly in a lot of their recent purchases, looking for that magic player and they let go or pushed out some quality. They have paid ‘overs’ for under-performing players from Western Sydney who have come to the Gold Coast thinking it’s a holiday! Even some of the local players you mentioned are not really up to it & there are better players in the Qld Cup who they could recruit. They need to do better on their due diligence on players with “heart, effort & speed” being better criteria than, games in the NRL. Recent data has shown that the intensity of the Qld Cup is not far off NRL levels and with full-time training, those players could achieve much more than a lot of the current batch. I would put a line through 12 of their roster immediately including Taylor, Hipgrave, Peachey, Peats, Rein, Cartwright, Boyd (both), Watkins, Latu, Spry, Roberts & even some of their young signings are doubtful. It looks like they go local without thinking or looking around the greater region. They have dropped the ball on junior development until recently but need to improve this area greatly. Unfortunately, Holbrook (who I rate) may fall for the same trap of “must have instant success” instead of developing quality players. Again the Qld Cup is littered with players the Titans could have or should have signed, Grant & Cronin are better that Peats & Rein, Scarlett & Jacks are better that Taylor, Boyd & Roberts, Watts & Roe are a mile in front of Hipgrave, Cartwright & Latu. I could go on but you get my point. Until the Titans start recruiting the right type of player for the future they will end up in the same predicament as they are now in.

  2. HI Sports Nut,

    Hard to argue with any of your points. I didn’t include Ipswich, Logan etc as a region the Titans should (not that they shouldn’t) attempt to consume, as the Broncos have a stronghold in these areas and the Western Corridor bid team is a front runner to win the “second Brisbane” license.

    As mentioned, the recruitment and roster management has been poor. Embarrassing even. But the flop signings you mentioned, have all proven to be match winners in the past, they just haven’t done it in a Titans jersey – apart from Taylor. These players are playing for their NRL futures next year and if they don’t deliver and play to their potential, Holbrook will boot them and send them packing to England, but I’m going to wait until we see what Holbrook can do with them, as he has a reported reputation for his man management skills and getting the best out of his players.

    2020 is a “rebuild” season no doubt, but regardless of external pressure and criticism, they should still be striving to reach the grand final next year. Chooks went from last in 2009 to the GF in 2010. Sharks went from last in 2014, to sixth in 2015, to premiers in 2016. Eels went from last in 2018 to fifth in 2019. I guarantee if you look back on those years, the ‘internet commentators’ (putting it nicely), wouldn’t have given those teams a chance of improving either.

  3. “Sharks went from last in 2014, to sixth in 2015, to premiers in 2016. Eels went from last in 2018 to fifth in 2019.”
    To premiers in 2020, agreed.
    I know, but couldn’t help myself.

  4. Great article! 100% correct. The moment they start winning games, I will be back at CBus. As simple as that!

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