Gold Coast Rugby League (Episode 2)

What’s wrong with the Gold Coast? This is a question that has been asked several times since the Gold Coast-Tweed Giants entered the New South Wales Rugby League in 1988.

In Part 1, I set out to answer the question of what went wrong with the 2022 Titans, focusing on the strange and complex history of the region’s top-flight rugby league.

Today I look at the rise of the Gold Coast Chargers from the ashes of the Seagulls and compare where the Titans are today with the fortunes of their predecessors. This is by no means a comprehensive assessment but history provides some insights.

In August 1995, the Seagulls Leagues withdrew financial support from their named rugby league team. Looks like the top-flight league on the Gold Coast is over. As it turns out, this is still the beginning of a strange chapter.

Charging in Violations: Gold Coast Chargers, 1996-98
Seagulls over? Although the league club withdrew financial support from the team, they still retained the license.

In late 1995, ARL entered into negotiations with a group involving Brian Ray and Kerry Packer who were interested in taking over. But they would have taken things in a new direction and probably did more damage to the struggling league club.

Then in December, colorful Gold Coast property developer Jeff Mueller entered the fray and immediately announced that Gold Coast would win the premiere in its first season.

The alarm bell should have been – and probably was – going off everywhere, but Muller might be able to get ARL out of a sticky situation if that means, among other things, being checked out.

Initially, the plan was to continue the Seagulls’ identity, but Mueller had other ideas. Naturally the league club objected and the ARL, already granting a license to Mueller, realized late on that his financial situation was the most vague and that his random behavior, including summoning players to a training session on Christmas Day 1995, could be one. Problems

It all ended in court. The league club finally washed their hands of it, when ARL was able to take control of the club by removing Mueller.

The Chargers made their Gold Coast gladiator debut in 1996 World Sevens. There was a problem: the Gladiators television program objected, and the name was changed to Charger, apparently with the permission of their NFL name.

With the hastily assembled roster, the Chargers fought back in 1996 and, inevitably, did so again in ’98, their only season in the NRL.

Gold Coast Chargers

(Photo Getty Images)

The history of the Chargers is about their great race in the second week of the 1997 ARL Final. They beat defending Premier Manley in Carrara in 21 rounds and then beat Illawara 25-14 in the club’s first final at the Paramatman Stadium.

Looking back, the ’97 chargers were pretty much what a team on the Gold Coast should have been. Martin Bella, their Queensland State of Origin representative, was an experienced forward leader. The poor jade costumes of the Big ‘Munster’ chargers were quite eye-catching.

They were young Queensland forwards in the rise of Jeremy Schloss, Scott Sattler, and the famous Mugelist Jamie Goddard.

Andrew King of Lismore and Wes Patten of Tarry represented the other side of the border, while Preston Campbell of Invarrell waited in the wings and made his debut in ’98. With the recruitment of Marcus Bai and Tom O’Reilly from PNG, they looked further north.

This could be another case. Inexplicably, the NRL introduced a team in Melbourne who were able to sort through the corpses of Super League casualties when the chargers dried up.

Transformers: Gold Coast Titans
The Titans are in a much better position than their predecessors. Their initial recruitment drive got former chargers Preston Campbell, Murwilumbah Boy Anthony Lafranchi and Origin stars Scott Prince and Luke Bailey.

They play in a modern stadium in Robina, with much better transport connections than before with the rest of the Gold Coast.

Reaching their preliminary finals in 2010 is easily the most significant achievement by any Gold Coast team.

They even finished the last few seasons before the Broncos and in 2021 hunted one of their star players, David Fifita.

David Fifita

(Photo by Ian Hitchcock / Getty Images)

Among them is a crop of exciting youngsters, many of whom were made by the club and who may have been part of a rival team too long ago.

Unlike the Giants and Seagulls, they have overcome financial and administrative instability and have been relatively stable under a consortium led by former player Michael Searle and businessman Daryl Kelly. However, there is currently some uncertainty about the owner of a part of the club.

Recent membership numbers were unavailable for the Titans and were declining before the epidemic. It’s the same with crowd numbers. The Titans have been mostly down since the beginning.

So, what’s going on here? My loose theory revolves around the image of the club.

I once met a Titan supporter. I’m exaggerating, I’ve met a few, but the available data indicates that they are becoming rare. The club is fighting to retain supporters and attract new ones.

If the people of the Gold Coast region are so indifferent to the Titans, if the players and coaches walk around their community without seeing or hearing or even making emotional jokes, does it eventually turn into indifference and envy?

As mentioned in Part 1, I followed the seagulls in my youth because they were close to home and some of their images appealed to me. While it wasn’t glamorous, it was authentic.

I’m still close to the Gold Coast and I have no connection to the Titans. I lost sight of their awesome color scheme and the sheer effort to piggy-back in the popular Hollywood movie franchise. It probably lost older residents in the area – and there are several – and it underestimated the young brigade.

Cheer for Titan fans

(Photo by Chris Hyde / Getty Images)

Generation Y is not addicted to all the obscure social media, responsible for being distracted by shiny things. Many understand that NRL is a small part of a long tradition and appreciates the history and aesthetics of the game.

An infected franchise can appeal to anyone without a clear link to the game’s tradition in the Gold Coast-Tweed region, but obviously not many new supporters, old or young, are winning.

Everything about the Titans’ corporate image and field presence is the theme park’s Gold Coast, the party strip and the accompanying glamorous marketing.

There are probably some people in the marketing department of the club who think that this should be the guiding theme.

Why? They forget that there are people who actually live in this area and have roots. They see the supernatural and invisibility of the Gold Coast every day.

Potential supporters may respond differently; Something that is at least more enduring and rooted in tradition.

The problem is, this is the kind of thinking that giants and seagulls bring to you. But those teams didn’t fail because they had great jerseys and they wanted to reflect on their ancestors. They failed because they were unimaginable and restless initiatives were run by the wrong people.

The Titans can do something about the speed and direction of their terrible line and attack and re-evaluate their target population and public image while they are there.

Be different, Titans.

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