March 3, 2024

Gabrielrholl

Funky Sport

Embarrassment awaits for Titans if Dolphins experience success first

Embarrassment awaits for Titans if Dolphins experience success first

With the 2022 NRL Season done and dusted, the Penrith Panthers are the champions, the Wests Tigers have taken out the club’s first wooden spoon and it is the fifteenth year with no success for the Gold Coast Titans.

Professional sporting outfits on the Gold Coast are often the butt of many jokes, one reason being the inability to secure any sort of title. While for decades this could have been argued that being Australia’s premier tourist destination meant that the long-term support needed for the success of a professional sporting outfit was missing.

This for a while was deemed to be true, but now as residential developments up and down the east coast of Australia have now seen more than enough residents to establish themselves, it gives professional outfits on the Gold Coast an opportunity to truly establish a supporter base.

It was in 2005 that the NRL, through then CEO David Gallop, announced that the Gold Coast had been accepted into the competition from 2007 – following their initial failed bid in 2004 surrounding the controversy of the side originally wanting to be called the Gold Coast Dolphins.

In September 2005 it was announced that the club would play under the Titans moniker, voted for by the public and beating out fellow popular names the Stingers and Pirates.

Former State of Origin winger Chris Walker began his comeback trail with a 14-point haul in their first premiership match against the St George Illawarra Dragons in front of over 42,000 people at Suncorp Stadium, but the Titans fell short of victory 20-18.

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Despite the fanfare on what is often referred to as the ‘Glitter Strip’, the Gold Coast Titans and their fanbase have now gone through fifteen seasons with little success to show for their efforts.

Ladder Positions & Record by Year

2007 12th (10W-14L)
2008 13th (10W-14L)
2009 3rd (16W-8L)
2010 4th (15W-9L)
2011 16th (6W-18L)
2012 11th (10W-14L)
2013 9th (11W-13L)
2014 14th (9W-15L)
2015 14th (8W-16L)
2016 8th (11W-1D-12L)
2017 15th (7W-17L)
2018 14th (8W-16L)
2019 16th (4W-20L)
2020 9th (9W-11L)
2021 8th (10W-14L)
2022 13th (6W-18L)

Bryce Cartwright looks dejected

(AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

As the 2023 season starts to take shape, despite the usual murmurs surrounding player contracts and the safety of head coach Justin Holbrook, there is additional pressure on the club to perform after what could only be described as a disastrous 2022 campaign. That is, the introduction of The Dolphins, the league’s 17th franchise headed by legendary coach Wayne Bennett.

For fifteen years the Gold Coast have lived the highs and lows of the “50/50 calls” that happen in a game of football and their fans have accepted new coaches ‘inheriting’ sides, player injuries and ‘dodgy’ ref calls. But the newest franchise tasting success before the Titans could be a tough pill for their long-suffering fans to swallow.

Throughout the 2022 season, many things were said about the Gold Coast Titans, with many reflecting on the ‘one pass’ that could have seen them progress to week two of the 2021 finals series. And yet they spent most of the last season battling for the wooden spoon, all of what was said warranted.

But like the fifteen years of the results, 2022 was just like any random year you pick from. The list no longer matters and like the fans of sixteen other clubs focus now must turn towards hopes of a better 2023 season.

The Kellys and Frizelles – current owners of the Gold Coast Titans – have invested a lot of resources into the club they love and are desperate for success. The ultimate kick in the guts for them, as well as to the fans and the area the club represents, would be for Wayne Bennett to pull off one of his famous masterstrokes and deliver success to The Dolphins before it is tasted by the Gold Coast.

Titans coach Justin Holbrook has admitted he made the wrong call by releasing experience such as Jamal Fogarty prior to the 2022 season, and the side at times seemed rudderless with the inexperienced spine failing under the pressure. Now Holbrook and the list management staff have begun to right their wrongs.

Kieran Foran Manly

Kieran Foran (photo by Getty Images)

Despite not being overly active in the player market the club has taken their first steps in the right direction towards forcing a premiership window open with the acquisition of Kieran Foran, Sam Verrills and Joe Stimpson to plug glaring holes in their playing squad.

Foran, 32, has played 262 career matches including stints at the Sea Eagles, Eels, Warriors, and Bulldogs with representative honours for New Zealand and the NRL All Stars adding a further 24 appearances to his stellar career.

A Four Nations winner with the Kiwis, and premiership winner with the Sea Eagles in 2011, Kieran Foran would be the first to admit that his best football is behind him, although not past his prime. Believing he can still perform on the football field Foran found himself in career-best replicating form throughout 2022, despite his club (Manly) and their season imploding around him.

His signing to the Gold Coast not only provides a solid halves player who is capable of handling match situations he also brings much-needed leadership experience.

The Titans have made it clear they are focused on youth as well as building the bulk of the squad they currently have together into premiership-winning players. Foran, not only brings stability on the field but with his experience he is able to mentor the younger players, in particular the likes of Tanah Boyd, Aaron Booth and Toby Sexton – all of whom come with high wraps from those within the Titans.

Verrills is another inclusion, a player who has experienced premiership success with the Sydney Roosters, and comes to the Titans to provide direction from a football setup that is among the best in the game.

Solid contributions by Clark, Boyd and Booth were not enough to secure the hooker role throughout 2022. Injury, selections or just bad luck played a part but it was clear the departure of Mitch Rein and Tyrone Peachey meant the youngsters had big shoes to fill – unfortunately they were not up to the challenge.

The introduction of Verrills not only provides a solid spine on paper along with Foran, Brimson and Jayden Campbell, but the hope of clear ball to some of the other players that will be looking for a big year ahead.

Sam Verrills of the Roosters runs the ball during the round 23 NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Sydney Roosters at Clive Berghofer Stadium, on August 22, 2021, in Toowoomba, Australia. (Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jono Searle/Getty Images)

Lacking clear ball and space for the likes of David Fifita, Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and their outside backs was one of the points heavily criticised by experts throughout the season, with Verrills seen as an important acquisition for the club if they were to wipe the dismal 2022 season from their memory.

Once again, the younger players still under development have an opportunity to learn from, plus train alongside a premiership winner whose wisdom and knowledge of what makes a team successful could have immense benefits to the club long-term.

A smart, young player himself, Verrills is one to not die wondering. Accompanying his skill and experience are the expectations of being able to deliver the early ball and the clear direction the players around him need to get the go-forward the Titans have lacked.

While sixteen other clubs set their eye on premiership glory the race is now on for the Gold Coast Titans, which until now has been the newest franchise in the competition, to force open their premiership window and try to taste success.

Not only for themselves, but to cross it off the list so there is minimal chance of embarrassment of The Dolphins beating them to the glory.