Entering his eighth season as Gold Coast coach, the defining moment of John Cartwright’s career with the NRL club surely looms.
Cartwright’s men made a valiant but ultimately futile late charge at the top eight in 2013 but the club’s 10-13 win-loss tally marked the fifth time in seven seasons the Titans have finished with a losing record.
Injuries meant Cartwright rarely managed to pick the same team from week-to-week but a squad containing representative forwards Nate Myles, Greg Bird and Ashley Harrison as well as talents like David Taylor, Jamal Idris and Albert Kelly would have had far higher expectations.
The Titans head into this season without a finals appearance since the 2010 preliminary final and it’s an issue the club has addressed, making sweeping changes to their backroom staff and administration.
The recruitment of ex-North Queensland coach Neil Henry as John Cartwright’s new assistant is aimed at lightening the burden on the Titans’ mentor.
The club’s parlous financial state is also being dealt with following the appointment of ex-NRL adminstrator Graham Annesley as the club’s chief executive.
Annesley has streamlined the club’s revenue department and says a lack of resources played a role in the club’s recent under-achievement.
“The only reason for us to exist as an administration is to put the best possible football team on the field,” Annesley said.
“In a professional sports environment that costs a lot of money.
“Whilst every club is under the same salary cap, there is no salary cap on what you can spend around your football team.
“All of those things which can often make the difference between winning and losing are areas that you need to generate revenue to spend on.
“The wealthier clubs have the ability to do that and those that are a bit closer to the breadline have a bit more trouble doing it. That’s why we need to generate profits.”
There has been movement within the Titans’ squad, notably the departure of ex-NSW Origin centre Idris.
The 23-year-old was given an early release just two years into a five-year deal after an injury-marred time on the Gold Coast.
Idris has moved to Penrith with Brad Tighe heading the other way from the Panthers while Maurice Blair (Melbourne), youngster Paul Carter (Canterbury), Siuatonga Likiliki (Newcastle) and Kalifa Faifai Loa (North Queensland) are the other main recruits.
Annesley denies Cartwright begins the season under pressure, saying his role at the Titans has always been about more than just results.
“As the foundation coach he is not only critical to on-field performances but also the culture of the club, amongst the playing group, is almost entirely as a result of John’s work over the period of time in which the club has existed,” he said.
“It’s all very well to be responsible for performances but it’s also about the kind of culture that your club has, in terms of working with the community, working with sponsors and corporate partners. John is critical to that.”
GOLD COAST TITANS
Finishes over the past three seasons: 2013 – 9th, 2012 – 11th, 2011 – 16th
Coach: John Cartwright
Co-captains: Greg Bird, Nate Myles
Gains: Maurice Blair (Storm), Paul Carter (Bulldogs), Christian Hazard (Rabbitohs), Siuatonga Likiliki (Knights), Kalifa Faifai Loa (Cowboys), Brad Tighe (Panthers)
Losses: Jordan Atkins (London), Marmin Barba (Broncos), Hymel Hunt (Storm), Jamal Idris (Panthers), Mark O’Dare (Sea Eagles), Luke O’Dwyer (retired), Jordan Rankin (Hull FC), Matthew Russell (Warrington)
Strength: Forwards. The club boasts several current or ex-representative forwards as well as up-and-comers such as Ryan James, Ben Ridge and Matt Srama.
Weakness: A young halves pairing in Albert Kelly and Aidan Sezer is promising but still a work in progress.
Money man: The sporting enigma that is Dave Taylor. The 188cm enforcer says he’s fitter than ever. If he can bring consistency to his undoubted talent the Titans will have a match-winning player on their hands.
One to watch: Recruit Paul Carter has been hailed as a Greg Bird clone by coach John Cartwright. The junior Kangaroo could be a crafty pick-up for the Titans.
Best team: Will Zillman, David Mead, Maurice Blair, Brad Takairangi, David Mead, Aidan Sezer, Albert Kelly, Ashley Harrison, Ben Ridge, Greg Bird, Luke Douglas, Matt Srama, Nate Myles. Interchange: Steve Michaels, Ryan James, David Taylor, Mark Minichiello.
Predicted finish: 11th