When the Gold Coast Titans entered the NRL in 2007, there was plenty of optimism. With local heroes Scott Prince, Preston Campbell and Mat Rogers playing, the Titans won 10 games in their first year, a respectable showing. After another 10-win season in 2008, they finished third in 2009 and lost a home preliminary final (at Suncorp Stadium, drawing a crowd of over 44,000) against the Sydney Roosters in 2010. After just four years, everything was coming up Milhouse. Establishing the Indigenous All-Stars game at Robina (played there in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015), showed the Coast was being taking seriously again.
Then it fell apart. The Titans ‘won’ the 2011 wooden spoon, and have only made the finals once: in 2016, finishing eighth and losing to Brisbane in the elimination final. Then there’s the ugly Jarryd Hayne soap opera. Hayne returned to the NRL in 2016 after his much-hyped NRL stint in San Francisco. It was a huge mistake, with Hayne’s at-times bad attitude a distraction for the Titans, ending in coach Neil Henry’s sacking. He only scored 8 tries in 23 games (2016 and 2017), compared to 113 in 191 for Parramatta (including his 2018 return).
The Titans are in trouble, and their salary cap is a mess. At their best, they can make the lower part of the top eight – as shown by recent upsets against Manly (at Brookvale) and Brisbane (at Suncorp); at their worst, they’re a rabble, as shown by recent huge losses to Manly and Penrith. Coach Garth Brennan is gone, as the last-placed Titans have fallen behind fellow strugglers Canterbury-Bankstown. The NRL prides itself on their close competition. While the Storm are six points ahead in first place, just four points separate teams five to thirteen. Only St. George-Illawarra, the Bulldogs and Titans are genuinely out of contention.
The Gold Coast is the “sexy” option for marketers and administrators (with big tourism dollars and a beautiful climate), but there’s been more failed sporting franchises than Batman movies.
So what now for the Titans?
Relocation seems an easy answer.
The best place is Brisbane. Rebranded as the South Queensland Titans, they could play most of their home games at Suncorp Stadium, with a handful at Robina to keep old fans happy. It’s a one hour train ride from Robina to Brisbane, so it’s not too fanciful for fans to travel for home games at Lang Park. They recently beat Brisbane there, so you’d imagine they’d quickly adapt to their new home. Non-Broncos fans in Brisbane would jump on the Titans, just like they did with the South Queensland Crushers. The Broncos v South Queensland Titans games would be genuine derbies. While the Brisbane Bombers won’t like it (or the Broncos), relocating the Titans to Brisbane works, and ensures almost weekly NRL games in Brisbane.
Toowoomba is another great option, with the Titans already taking some games to Clive Berghofer Stadium. The Toowoomba Titans has a nice ring to it, plus it’ll give regional Queensland regular NRL action.
Other options, like Perth, aren’t as favourable. After what happened to the poor old Western Reds (and Super Rugby’s Western Force), Western Australia deserves their own team, not a relocated side. That should be the West Coast Pirates.
It’s up to the Titans to improve on the field. If they can start making finals from 2020 – or at least push for a competitive mid-table finish like the early days – they may survive. If not, they’ll either have to move or risk the axe like the Gold Coast-Tweed Giants, Gold Coast Seagulls, Gold Coast Gladiators and Gold Coast Chargers. Another tombstone on the Gold Coast sporting graveyard.