(The Game’s hottest property has a big decision to make – Photo courtesy of http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au)
(Written prior to when the alleged drugs scandal broke)
Having spent a good part of a week on Queensland’s Gold Coast for two motives. The first, I was in desperate need of a little R&R after working straight through Christmas and the New Year period. Secondly, to attend the return of the Rugby League All Stars fixture, the NRL All Stars V the Indigenous All Stars. The build up during the week was as good as it has ever been, with the major emphasis being in giving back to the community, with both sets of players from both teams, Wayne Bennett’s handpicked NRL side, whilst the fan voted Indigenous mob both mingled with the locals and mentored young indigenous youth. It’s the kind of goodwill that forever goes unnoticed by many, but appreciated by those who are touched by the kind generosity our footballers and our code provide to the society. For what its worth, the All Stars, just like the previous four contests was a resounding success. Whilst many were worried about the turnout, the fans voted with their feet, eclipsing 23,000 in attendance, a great crowd for an array of explanations; we are still several weeks away from football fever from officially hitting and there is still Cricket, A-League being played. 484,000 people tuned, a sure sign that League lovers are craving for the NRL season to return in earnest. But whilst we celebrate the great spectacle and event, the healthy attendance and impressive tv ratings, there is a rather large elephant or shall we say ‘Titan’ in the room. The Gold Coast NRL franchise has been anything but a success. Heading into its 9th year of existence, the Titans have been anything but a godsend for the NRL. Whilst showing considerable promise and success in its first three seasons, the Titans have been more like the Titanic, sinking rather than sailing to a destination of a Premiership, success and sustainability. Members and fans have walked away. So too has commercial partners and sponsors of the football club. Due to their dire financial situation, they were forced to sell and eventually abandon the Centre of Excellence and their Robina Training base where Cbus Stadium is located. The Titans are now operating out of a high school a little bit further up the road at Southport High School. Gone is the first class gym. Gone is the first class high altitude chamber and rehabilitation facilities. Gone is the luxury that the Titans had at their disposal; that were the envy of other NRL and sporting clubs around the world. (A sight to behold. CBUS Super Stadium packed to the rafters watching the Titans much earlier on in the peace – Photo courtesy of http://www.mygc.com.au)
So where did all go wrong? People can point the finger at Michael Searle, who was instrumental in bringing the Titans to life who’s business model for the club was dealt an improbable blow when the GFC hit and the company that was responsible for building the property arm of their business went belly up, leaving the Titans with no tenants and a floundering debt. Others may blame the previous administration and management for being too nice with former Coach John Cartwright who really had no pressure from anyone to hold his and his team’s performance to account over countless years of failure. Perhaps a little from column A, a little from column B. But alas, change was needed, a needed quickly. Whilst the astute appointment of Graham Annesley as the Titans CEO, a successful business woman as chair in Rebecca Frizelle; a board of directors with business acumen, vision and strategy are once again priority and is on course for the future direction, prosperity and survival of the Gold Coast Titans. Add to the fact, a new coach with fresh ideas, a new voice will be heard for the first time in 9 years. They say change is inevitable. Or that change is as good as a holiday. When you live, reside on Australia’s most famous coastline and tourist destination; every day seems to be a holiday. The unity ticket of Annesley-Frizelle-Henry at the helm, the Titans will feel like that they are anywhere but Queensland’s Gold Coast “beautiful one day, perfect the next” with a new motto of “Hard work one day, torture the next”. (CEO and veteran administrator Graham Annesley has his work cut out for him – Photo courtesy of the http://www.goldcoastbulletin.com.au)
So whilst the new foundations have been laid and a plan for the future, that may very well take sometime to attain, what is needed to finally make the Gold Coast a success? Been and gone has the Gold Coast since the early 1980’s. The Giants, the Seagulls, the Chargers. All defunct, 6 feet under pushing up flowers at cemeteries between Helensvale and Tweed Heads. The Titans have everything going for them. A large junior nursery at their disposal than spans from Coffs Harbour to the outskirts of Brisbane. A demographic and population that all sporting organisations would die to have, attract and win their hearts and minds. A stadium built perfectly for Rugby League and is comparatively seen as a mini Suncorp Stadium. Star players in Australian and Origin representatives, namely in Nate Myles, Greg Bird and Dave Taylor not to mention some amazing talent coming through in Kane Elgey and Kieran Mosley who is already being compared to a young Cameron Smith (you may have heard of him. Goes alright, can play a bit). But something is missing. It’s like there is a missing piece of the jugsaw puzzle that can solve the Titans issues on field and off. The Titans head into Season 2015 with a blank canvas for a modern day sports jersey; meaning, they are missing major commercial partners emblazed and sublimated all over their playing strip. And can you blame an prospective business wanting to align themselves and their brand with a sporting organization that really does not provide a significant return on their investment? It doesn’t matter how good of a salesperson Annesley and is commercial team may be, winning lotto would be an easier task than attempting to selling the Titans brand to businesses. So what is needed? First of all success. People love winners. (In much need of on field success as much as they need off it – Photo Courtest of http://www.goldcoastbulletin.com.au)
The Titans have shown in the past that when they are flying high and winning games, the community turns up and rallies behind their region’s NRL representative side. So winning and making the finals would be a great point to start at (No pressure Neil Henry, no pressure). And whilst not wanting to dwell or encourage the new Titans administration to look backwards, the Gold Coast need a figure of significant status who can be a significant savior as much as he is on the field as he is off it. The Titans got it right in 2007 when they lured Premiership winning Wests halfback Scott Prince back to Queensland to be the inaugural captain and face of the new franchise. And it worked. Prince encompassed everything you wanted in a footballer for a budding new entity. Talented, personable, receptive and was a leader, on and off the field. So whilst cloning one’s DNA is not feasible, the Titans need another ‘Scott Prince’. Prince not only attracted other star quality players to the Gold Coast, he brought and boosted interest, brought in revenue through his star appeal with sponsors throwing themselves to be associated with the new NRL’s newest franchise. So which current off contract superstar has the same qualities, characteristics that could reinvigorate the fledging Titans? There’s only one name that comes to mind. DCE. Daly Cherry-Evans. A clean cut, poster boy of the game who hails from Queensland; a current Premiership, Origin and test representative half who would breathe new life into Rugby League on the Gold Coast. A well spoken, articulate, family man, Cherry-Evans shapes as the potential ‘golden child’ for the Titans. And if you believe what you ready, coach Neil Henry will move heaven and earth to get DCE to the Gold Coast club. Cherry-Evans could very well be Scott Prince MkII or Version 2.0, defibrillating the heart beat of NRL interest back amongst the South East QLD community. Just as Karmichael Hunt or in more recent times Gary Abblett Jr has provided the Suns with, DCE potentially shapes as the Titans most important signing in the Gold Coast’s history. Bigger than Wally Lewis. Bigger than Martin Bella (sorry, couldn’t resist), bigger than Preston Campbell and much bigger than Luke Bailey or Scott Prince. Imagine the profound impact DCE would have on the Titans. Every kid and junior player on the Gold Coast would want to go watch the halfback in action, inspiring them to choose a steeden over a sherrin. It would give the Titans star appeal, attracting potential off contract players to the club and keeping emerging talent on the Gold Coast to play along side the representative halfback. DCE would be a tremendous commodity of the Titans, drawing interest commercially, propping up revenue and income for the Titans off field targets and endeavours making them a much more financially stable and secure entity. It would be the shot in the arm the titans desperately seek and need, but will it happen? Time will tell. (The main attraction, Scott Prince. Princew brought leadership, experience, skill as well as added perks of attracting star players and sponsors – Photo Courtesy of http://www.smh.com.au)
If it’s money, security, lifestyle and a challenge that is the criteria for DCE, then the Gold Coast tick all the boxes and then some. Cherry-Evans would almost be responsible for resurrecting the fortunes of the Titans. Rebuilding the Gold Coast from the bottom up. Similar to Wests Tigers, the Titans seemed to have never of recovered since Scott Prince parted ways with the club. Henry, Rankin, Bird, Sezer, Kelly, Mortimer have all tried to emulate and be the leader and playmaker that the Titans have desperately needed, but have bombed out, having never comes remotely close to Prince’s class and legacy. DCE, however, would. Cherry-Evans may even eclipse Prince as the Gold Coast’s greatest ever leader and playmaker. A title, a challenge, a label that the soon to be Million Dollar playmaker, would sit comfortably with him. The only question’s that beckon is “will the Gold Coast Titans dreams comes true? Will DCE be the hero that the Titans urgently need him to be?” God knows, they need someone….