Gold Coast – The Enigma of Rugby League

Since 1988 the Gold Coast has been perennial underachievers of Rugby League. The Seagulls, the Chargers, the Crushers, the Gladiators the Giants and now, the Titans.

For every attempt no matter what the constant name iterations just haven’t worked.

The Gold Coast is the sporting enigma of Australian sports. NRL, AFL, A League, NBL have all tried and failed over the years.

What is the reason? Why has no Gold Coast team in any sport been successful? Is it because it’s a transient city with locals coming and going not really supporting the team?

Or are all the attractions and activities more appealing to locals . The sun, surf and sex it is renowned for.

For well paid young fit men, it is a paradise with many attractions, temptations and vices. Particularly in the 80’s and 90’s.

An era where mobile phones and social media didn’t exist. Were those temptations became too much for some?

What started with excitement and hope in 1988 has turned to frustration and disappointment over the years. To understand the story of the Gold Coast, let’s go back to 1988.

The original Gold Coast team, the Giants, played out of Tweed Heads.

For such a colourful location, the jersey chosen was charcoal black, grey and white. So from the start, it didn’t exactly win the Gold Coast locals over.

At the same time, the Broncos also entered the NSWRL Winfield Cup for the first time loaded their team with Origin and Test players.

The biggest signing for the Giants was Ronnie ‘Rambo’ Gibbs, Manly’s second rower from the 1987 Premiership team.

From that first season, the team went through many changes. The Giants gave way to be the Seagulls owned and run by the large Seagulls Leagues Club. A one time mega club.

This was a time when poker machines were banned in clubs and pubs in Queensland. Bus loads would cross the border South to the Tweed and play the pokies at the Seagulls club.

Still located at Tweed Heads and now cashed up, the club was able to bulk up their playing roster. Enter the King Wally Lewis.

By then, his best playing days were over and he had just been dismissed by Wayne Bennett at the Broncos. However, he gave the struggling team credibility.

The club recruited well obtaining Canberra premiership-winning players including Brent Todd and Paul Martin.

They were starting to produce their own players like Wayne Bartrim who would later go on to have a great career with St George.

Why these teams failed is unclear. Their roster at times looked very promising and able to compete with most teams.

Yet they usually ended at the bottom of the ladder. As said, a different time without social media. Yet to become a fully professional game.

Eventually, with Pokies being legalised in Queensland and with declining crowd support, the Seagullls club could no longer financially support the club.

The licence was then bought by local entrepreneurs Jeff Muller in 1996.

Muller moved the club to Carrara Stadium on the Gold Coast and renamed the team the Gladiators.

Despite off field issues including the hiring and firing of 5 coaches in the pre season alone, the Gladiators won the pre season 7’s tournament.

Prior to the 1996 season, the licence was revoked and placed into administration.

With the Super League War at its height, the ARL needed a team on the Gold Coast and quickly assembled the Gold Coast Chargers.

A time when players were being paid well above market value. Still before social media.

Now playing out of Carrara Stadium, the team over achieved in the split competition making the semi finals for the first time in 1997.

When the Super League war was over, the Super League aligned Hunter Mariners put an offer to merge with the Gold Coast Chargers. This offer was declined.

The nucleus of the players on offer in the merger went on to form the Melbourne Storm which won the Premiership in 1999.

The Gold Coast was one of the first teams sacrificed when the competing ARL and Super League combined to form the NRL.

What could had been with that merger. The NRL would be a very different game today had that merger happened.

Melbourne went on to unparalleled success while the Gold Coast has to wait until 2007 to redeem themselves.

Years went by with hope a team might relocate or the NRL might expand.

Thanks to South Sydney winning their way back into the NRL, it meant that NRL needed to even the number of teams competing to 16.

In 2007, the Gold Coast Titans were introduced into the NRL.

Could this iteration break the curse of the previous versions of the Gold Coast?

The buzz surrounding the new team was nothing like any of the other teams experienced.

The team was very competitive from the start and importantly, it was located on the Gold Coast at the brand new purpose built stadium in Robina.

However, for all of the good signings and home grown talent, great administration and coaches, success has still eluded the Gold Coast since 2007.

Over 30 years has passed since the Giants entered the NSWRL in 1988.

In that time, the Gold Coast has seen NBL and A League teams come and go. The AFL struggle on and off the field.

As a city, the Gold Coast itself has changed and matured. Yet sporting teams, no matter the code, struggle to be successful.

The same temptations are available to the young men that play but with the advent of mobile phones and social media it prevents most temptations being acted upon.

The Titans have recently been bought by a local consortium giving the team stability off the field, for now. Let us hope it continues.

With some astute signings and the development of some very exciting youngsters, perhaps the Gold Coast enigma will be cracked and the curse lifted in 2019.

Why has the Gold Coast failed to succeed? Let me know your thoughts. Please be respectful to all.

Pete Williams

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