When the Gold Coast Titans joined the NRL as the competitions 16th club the good will was overwhelming. Even looking past and embarrassing name change from Dolphins to Titans early in the piece, the people of the Gold Coast seemed pretty happy to have a Rugby League team to support again.
During their first few seasons the Titans crowds were fantastic. On the field the team was not too bad for a club that was started from scratch. Off the field however things were quietly turning bad for the club, and eventually these issues would take their toll on the Titans level of support.
Business decisions made by the Titans started to turn bad for the club. Companies on the Gold Coast that had backed the Titans from the start started to demand money they said the club owed them over the building of the Titans Centre Of Excellence.
Michael Searle, the man who had driven the Titans from the start, was starting to lose local support in the area. As the face of the franchise this had a big effect on the club. The Titans lost a lot of the good will from the local community they had built up.
Things started to take a turn for the worse on the field as well. A number of their key players in the early years started to lose form as father time caught up with them. To make matters worse, the clubs financial issues saw the club spending an inadequate amount of money on junior development, so the Titans were not bringing through the youngster they should have been.
The club had burnt its bridges with the Gold Coast community, due to under funding it wasn’t bringing through any local heroes through its junior development system, and as the club started to lose more games than it won and became irrelevant in the premiership race, locals started to turn away in droves.
On the Gold Coast the Titans were always going to have to compete with thousands of other entertainment options. The Titans stopped being value for money, and the local simply took their entertainment dollar elsewhere.
Changes needed to be made and to the NRL’s credit, they have been working hard behind the scenes to get the club back on track.
John Cartwright’s resignation is a good thing for the club. Its hard to feel sorry for Cartwright when you consider how long he was in charge of the club. He had more opportunities than most other coaches get. He isn’t a terrible coach, but he just didn’t have what it took to make things work on the Gold Coast.
Michael Searle standing down as a director of the club is also a good move. The club needed wholesale change, and as long as Searle was around the club was going to find it hard to convince people of the Gold Coast that real change was happening.
The good news is that the Titans can turn things around quickly if they continue to make all the right moves.
The club needs to reconnect with the local community. It needs to be openly apologetic over what has happened in the past and promise to make amends in the future.
Neil Henry will take over as the clubs coach in 2015 and the change should be a good thing for the clubs on the field prospects. That needs to be backed up by funds flowing into the junior development system.
As always, the best cure for all of this will be winning on the field. If the Titans start to win games again the supporters will come back. It is just a shame that the Titans early start in the NRL was wasted and the club is now in a position where it has to win back fans so early in the clubs existence.