Pressure is on for Gold Coast Titans
By BOB ANTHONY
TWELVE months ago, Michael Searle was like an expectant father.
All the hard work of getting an NRL club re-established on the Gold Coast was about to be realised when the first Titans trial squad ran on to the field at Coffs Harbour to play the Melbourne Storm.
Today, Searle is no less nervous with not one, but three Titans teams taking to fields across South-East Queensland in trial games.
At Tugun, the club’s SG Ball team will become the first Queensland-based side to play in the NSW competition, taking on Cronulla at 6pm (DST).
At Kougari Oval, Wynnum-Manly, also at 6pm, the Titans’ National Youth Competition (Under-20) team plays the locals.
The senior squad, comprising several Tweed Seagulls Queensland Cup players, will go up against a Canberra Raiders outfit at Ipswich at 8.15pm.
For Searle, the nerves aren’t so much about the results from this weekend but the expectations which the 2008 season brings.
“Last year it was about getting the team on the field and building a supporter base and, in that regard, I think we exceeded expectations,” he said.
“The club was new and there was plenty of excitement in just seeing the team on the paddock.
“Among our coaching staff, we felt we had a team that should have made the finals but it didn’t turn out that way.
“Now the pressure is on for a better achievement and the need to be competitive.”
Adding to Searle’s nerves is that the Titans will have a new home at the $160 million Skilled Park, which is hosting a public family day tomorrow.
The open day has been sold out and will be a test at moving large numbers of people through the public transport system.
The stadium, which can hold 25,000 fans, carries with it a weight of expectation that the Titans will be able to turn it into a ‘fortress’, more so than the old ground at Carrara.
But with his own experiences of playing in the NRL for a Gold Coast-based side, Searle knows that a first-class stadium will be filled only if the team is producing results.
“We have given ourselves 10 weeks to measure our crowds with the aim of getting to a stage similar to the North Queensland Cowboys, where they play to nearly full houses each home game,” Searle said.
“I believe Skilled Park will do for rugby league on the Tweed and Gold Coast what Parramatta Stadium did for league in Sydney’s west in the 1980s.”
Searle said one of the biggest steps for the Titans was the introduction of the Under-20 competition and the inclusion of the club in SG Ball.
“For us, these sides will help build up player depth and retain those players in the region,” he said.
“It also means we can provide pathways to take players to another level of competition and ensures longevity of the Gold Coast Titans.”
Knights fight back for win
NEWCASTLE produced a fighting 22-14 NRL pre-season trial victory over the NZ Warriors last night to show glimpses of an improved 2008 season.
The Knights overcame a 14-0 half-time deficit to conjure the win without several of the club’s best players.
NEWCASTLE 22 (C Vuna, C Bailey, Z Taia, R Fa’aoso tries; S Dureau 3 goals) d WARRIORS 14 (P Ah Van, M Vatuvei, W Koopu tries; M Witt goal) at Nth Harbour Stadium, Auckland.