All posts by PeteW72

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

From the Cheap Seats – Coaching Merry-Go-Round

The coaching Merry Go Round took another twist late last week with Wests Tigers head coach Ivan Cleary committing to the Penrith Panthers for 2021.

Phil Gould, Penrith’s Executive GM of Football must have a crystal ball or a flux capacitor (Back to the Future, kids)!

He obviously knows the club won’t win a Premiership in the next 2 seasons.

Cameron Ciraldo and the Penrith coaching staff must be filled with confidence knowing no matter what results he produces in the next 2 years, he will be punted in 2021 for Cleary.

At Manly, Trent Barrett looks like he will have to serve out his severance time of one year back dated to May 2018.

So Barrett will be head coach of a team and club he has no confidence in until May 2019.

In Brisbane, Wayne Bennett is committed to the 2019 season.

His last at Brisbane a club he has driven to countless success. However, his name has been mentioned as a potential Tigers coach should Cleary move on early.

Former South Sydney coach Michael Maguire has been mentioned as a potential Manly, Tigers and Broncos coach, depending on where the musical chairs stop.

South Sydney’s Anthony Seibold has been linked as Brisbane’s new long term Bennett replacement.

He is yet to commit to a new contract at the Rabbitohs so he may be on his way out.

In my time following Rugby League, I have never seen a time when coaches were the main commodity for off season signings.

Although, I am not shocked by anything in rugby league in the modern era.

Contracts do not amount to much. Clubs sack coaches, coaches have sought early releases in the past as with players.

My mind drifts to stories of Parramatta great Mick Cronin agreeing to a contract with a handshake only.

The potential switch by Cleary back to the Panthers is intriguing. Penrith sacked Cleary in 2015 and replaced him with Anthony Griffin.

After guiding the Panthers to the final series in 2017, Griffin signed a new 2 year contract despite rumours of a falling out with Phil Gould.

Safe with his new contract, Griffin endured a year of speculation about his future at the club.

Astonishingly, Griffin was sacked just prior to this years semi final series.

At the Tigers, Ivan Cleary was working wonders with a team who most expected to be a wooden spoon contender.

With a comment that Ivan would like to coach his very talented son Nathan at some point in their careers.

All hell seemed to break out about Ivan and Nathan.

With Ivan secured to the Tigers for 2019, most thought Cleary’s would commit to the Tigers long term.

Then the ridiculous started to happen. Rumours of an immediate release for Nathan to join the Tigers, rumours both father and son would sign for the Broncos.

The most unlikely was Ivan would go back to Penrith. Be serious; why would he go back to a club that showed little faith and sacked him. No chance.

At Manly, will he or won’t he was being played out. The vague press releases and Trent Barrett calling a press conference where he was unable to discuss his future due to legal reasons.

In my opinion, Manly management let Barrett down.

He was put out front to face the media on club matters generally left to the CEO to answer.

He asked for additional staff but was either denied or the process was very slow. What could go wrong did go wrong for the season.

It is obvious to everyone that Barrett wants out.

Management are not exactly showing they really want Barrett for next season but seem to be holding on to him to “honour” his contract.

Is this because they hold the high moral ground or are they doing it out of spite?

Either way, it frustrates the fans. It can’t be good for the playing group.

It’s not a great recruiting tool to entice a new coach. Seeing how Barrett is allegedly being treated.

The Tigers who were fighting for a semi final place late in the season seemed to fall away once rumours started to circulate that Cleary was on his way out of the club.

Most fans feel let down and shocked that Cleary would leave and go back to Penrith.

As a club, the Tigers may be disappointed with Cleary but they have their own history of sacking or moving coaches on to new roles.

Tim Sheens, Michael Potter and Jason Taylor have all fallen into that category.

Cleary’s son Nathan has just signed with the Panthers on a long term high paying contract.

This likely ensures that the Cleary’s will unite in 2021.

Here are a few of my predictions from the Cheap Seats:

  1. All is well that ends well. Cleary will unite with son Nathan for the 2019 season at Penrith where he was sacked in 2015.
  2. Not sure how the dynamics will work with Ivan, Gould and the Penrith players who would know he was recruited at the behest of Nathan.
  3. Bennett after playing all his cards leaves his beloved Broncos to join the Tigers.
  4. Robbie might try to return to Souths as that relationship will be very interesting to watch. Not sure Robbie or Benji will play much under Bennett.
  5. At Manly, John Cartwright will take over in 2019.

What are your thoughts on the coaching Merry go round and where will the coaches end up?

Thanks and be respectful to all who reply.

From the Cheap Seats – The Sydney Roosters and the reasons for their success

Sydney Roosters fullback James Tedesco

Congratulations to the 2018 NRL Premiership winners, the Sydney Roosters!
Jeez, as a Tigers fanatic, that was hard to write!

From the cheap seats, I hear all sorts of rumour, innuendo and theories about the Roosters their salary sombrero and Uncle Nick.

For all the hate, innuendo and accusations, the Roosters won because they were the best team. Coached brilliantly by Trent Robinson and his staff.

It is easy to accuse them of cheating the salary cap. I understand the frustration.

However, what ever the Roosters are doing with the management of their squad, they are doing a great job compliant to the rules and are obviously better at list management than all other clubs.

The NRL are extremely thorough in their auditing of all clubs including the Roosters.

After Melbourne were stripped of their premierships and Canterbury were stripped of all points for seasons past for breaking salary cap rules, all clubs know the punishment for any wrongdoing.

I admit, I look at the strength of the Roosters roster and wonder how they fit all players under the cap.

Their team reminds me of the amazing teams of the Brisbane Broncos and Canberra Raiders of the early 90’s full of Test and Origin players.

“The Roosters cheat the Salary Cap because Ian Schubert, an ex Rooster, is the head auditor of the Salary Cap for the NRL. ”

That is something I hear often. Ian Schubert is not an NRL salary cap auditor. He hasn’t been for many years.

The punishment is far too harsh to intentionally break salary cap rules.

Not only are the players penalised or stripped of their achievements, but the fans feel the pain more.

Clubs also lose as it tarnishes their brand and potentially reduces revenue.

If any team has the capability of going back to back, it is this Roosters Team. They have bought well for next season to improve on their perfection.

Angus Crichton, Brett Morris, Ryan Hall will all join the club in 2019.

“Hang on! How do they fit them in under the cap?” I hear many fans shout in frustration! “What a joke! They must be cheating the salary cap.”

Many fans are unaware that a player can earn money outside of the salary cap through third party agreements.

Teams like the Roosters, Brisbane and Melbourne easily attract third party sponsors due to the clubs brand and corporate connections.

Third party agreements are met with skepticism from opposing fans.

Most get a vision of a brown paper bag full of cash. Truth is, they have to be approved by the NRL before a contract can be ratified.

Players should be able to earn as much as they can. They only have a short playing life which could end at anytime.

Third party agreements enable players to earn their market value and for clubs to obtain good players over the preference of other clubs.

“So, how do we assure fans, players, clubs and officials that clubs are adhering to the Salary Cap? ”

Transparency! The NRL should release all club players salary and third party deals. This is something they can adopt from most American sports.

In American sports, players contract money is made public.

I understand this is invading the players privacy but I feel it is necessary for many reasons.

The first and most importantly to alleviate any suspicions from fans.

If the contracts of the Roosters roster were to be made public, the fans and officials would be able to see the team financials to understand and appreciate rather than accuse and be disrespectful of the teams achievements.

On the other hand, fans and officials would be able to see contract money for a player they feel is suspiciously under valued.

Particularly officials of other teams who offered far more than what the player has settled for at another club. This would act as a deterrent for any club attempting to break the rules.

“If the Roosters can obtain better third party deals than other clubs, is the salary cap equal for all? ”

All clubs have the ability to obtain sponsors. It is up to the clubs to build its brand so external sponsors want to invest in them.

Players themselves need to be accountable if they want to earn top dollar. They also need to understand their contract.

Too often, I hear players state they are not aware of the details of their contract.

“My manager deals with that” can not be an excuse.

A player should be aware of what their entitlements are and what aren’t.

If players and player managers were to be individually harshly penalised for receiving goods or cash outside of their contract this would also act as a deterrent.

It would also be a tax declaration issue and potential crime.

Recent Mad Monday exploits and bad publicity will not help clubs to maintain existing sponsorship and attract potential sponsors.

Every bad action off and on the field has a bearing on all clubs. Australia has so many sports for Sponsors to choose from.

From the view from the cheap seats, my opinion is that the Roosters should be congratulated on a great season and are deserved premiership winners for 2018.

Let me know your thoughts. Be respectful to all. Go the Tigers!!!

Pete Williams