Sport Rugby League Remember the Titans: can they avoid the boneyard?
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Remember the Titans: can they avoid the boneyard?

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NRL chief Dave Smith had his game face on.

He had ridden into town like an old west lawman, announcing the NRL had taken control of the Gold Coast Titans.

Smith appeared to rankle when asked about the viability of the club.

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“This is an exciting day for the fans,” Smith said.

If this was an exciting day, we shudder to think what a bad one looks like.

The NRL was forced to take control of a club in chaos: without a major sponsor, besieged by a drug scandal that has seen five players caught in the web, and founding father Michael Searle stepping down as shareholder.

“They’ve been a series of problems,” Smith said.

“It’s not the end of the world, we will solve these problems.”

Smith was at pains to point out that the NRL were in this for the long haul, that the Titans had a long-term future on the Gold Coast.

But do they?

Sheriff Dave Smith rode into town on Tuesday. Photo: Getty
Sheriff Dave Smith rode into town on Tuesday. Photo: Getty

The Coast may be “famous for fun”, but it’s anything but fun for professional sports administrators trying to crack the market in Australia’s sixth-biggest city.

Tuesday’s debacle is just the latest in a long history of clubs coming to grief on the golden sands of south-east Queensland.

The Titans are the third attempt to establish a professional rugby league team on the Gold Coast following the ill-fated Giants/Seagulls from 1988-95 and the Chargers from 1996-98.

Other sports, including basketball, soccer and rugby union have all had a go at establishing a foothold on the Gold Coast.

The A-League’s Gold Coast United was perhaps the most famous of those other franchises to have gone to the wall.

Bankrolled by Clive Palmer, the mining magnate’s management style put him offside with the community and A-League administrators and after three seasons of falling crowds and interest, United’s licence was revoked by the A-League at the end of the 2011-12 campaign.

They joined a graveyard which already held the ghosts of the rugby league teams plus NBL franchises the Rollers and the Blaze.

Only the Titans and the AFL’s Suns remain despite the Gold Coast having a population that is only surpassed by Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

It is the presence of the Suns which will, ironically, ensure the Titans have a longer-term future.

When the Giants and Chargers failed the AFL barely had a presence on the Gold Coast, with a fledging Brisbane Bears outfit soon to head up the M1 to the big smoke, but the region is now a crucial battleground in ensuring the best outcome at the negotiation table with broadcasters for all-important media rights deals.

Leaving an area with 590,000 residents in rugby league heartland purely to the AFL is unthinkable to the NRL’s executive.

For that reason they’ll keep the Titans alive when in the past they may have been packed up.

Since a peak average attendance of 21,618 in 2008 – the club’s second NRL season – Titans’ average attendances have been falling every year, including when the team came within a game of the grand final in 2009, to an all-time low of 13,194 last year.

With the NRL’s commitment ensuring the club’s future, convincing the community to turn up and watch matches is Titans chief executive Graham Annesley’s great challenge.

NOT MUCH GOLD ON THIS COAST – the sporting teams that have come and gone on the Gold Coast

Rugby league

1998-95: Gold Coast Giants/Dolphins

1996-98: Gold Coast Chargers

Rugby Union

2007: East Coast Aces

Soccer

2009-12: Gold Coast United

Baseball

1989-99: Gold Coast Clippers/Daikyo Dolphins/Gold Coast Cougars

Basketball

1990-1996: Gold Coast Cougars/Rollers

2007-2012: Gold Coast Blaze

Ice Hockey

2008-2013: Brisbane Blue Tongues

– with AAP

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