In March 1999, the Gold Coast bid team was formed in an attempt to bring an NRL team back to the Gold Coast. Headed by Michael Searle, managing director of International Sports Australia and experienced rugby league administrator Paul Broughton, the bid team was active in lobbying the NRL to both expand the competition and consider the Gold Coast’s bid for inclusion.
In the six years that the Gold Coast bid team was established, they presented a compelling case to the NRL. The business plan was lauded by NRL board member and Sydney Roosters chairman Nick Politis as the most comprehensive document seen in Australian professional sport. Ernst and Young and the Gold Coast City Council planning and economic department also reviewed the document favourably.
The Gold Coast hosted NRL trial matches from 2002-2005 and those served as the platform for conveying community support for a Gold Coast team to the NRL. With average attendances of over 16,000, and peak attendances topping 20,000, the NRL could not dispute the popularity of live rugby league on the Gold Coast.
The consortium also secured investors who backed the team to the tune of $15 million. However, a significant hurdle facing the consortium, and one that had to be overcome to secure the club’s licence - was the requirement for an upgraded stadium for the Gold Coast team. The bid team lobbied local, state and federal governments for funding to upgrade the outdated facility at Carrara. They were successful in securing this, but more importantly, were also able to gain a guarantee from the State Government for the construction of a purpose built facility at Robina – now known as Cbus Super Stadium (formerly Skilled Park.
In August 2004, the board of the National Rugby League met to consider licence applications from the three potential expansion franchises, Wellington, the Central Coast and the Gold Coast. The board rejected all three applications.
Ultimately, this decision served only to galvanise the resolve of the Gold Coast bid team. It went about strengthening its proposal while the other contenders slipped away. It soon became apparent that this was a one horse race, and only the NRL board stood in the way of the Gold Coast’s inclusion into the NRL.
After more successful trail games in early 2005, speculation mounted that an NRL decision on expansion was imminent. Another board meeting at NRL headquarters on the morning of Friday 27 May 2005 preceded a phone call from David Gallop to Michael Searle telling him that “you’re in".
The decision was made public in front of 20,000 fans at Gold Coast Stadium that evening, as the Gold Coast hosted another successful game, this time an NRL premiership fixture between the North Queensland Cowboys and Canterbury Bulldogs.
The Gold Coast Titans completed a vigorous recruitment drive for their inaugural season which secured the services of such established NRL stars as Preston Campbell (a former member of the Gold Coast Chargers), Scott Prince, Luke Bailey and dual international Mat Rogers. The Titans also secured an impressive portfolio of both local and national sponsors, further indicating the growth of the local commercial sector and the depth of interest in investing here.
The Titans’ historic first game in the NRL Telstra Premiership was played at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane against the St George Illawarra Dragons, with the team putting up a gallant effort before going down 20-18 in front of 42,030 fans.
The club’s first win came the following weekend in the Titans’ first home match at Carrara 18-16 against the Cronulla Sharks.
The Titans finished the 2007 season with 10 victories in 12th place on the NRL ladder – a credible effort for the team’s first season.
The 2008 season saw the Titans farewell Gold Coast Stadium at Carrara for their brand new home at Skilled Park in Robina. Fittingly, the state of the art stadium was built in Titans colours to signify the cementing of the team in the NRL.
The Titans opened the season in style with a first round 36-18 victory over the North Queensland Cowboys in front of a near capacity crowd. Titans winger Jordan Atkins had a dream start to the NRL that night, equalling a 66-year-old record for most tries on debut - crossing the line an impressive four times.
The Titans showed blistering form at the beginning of the season, winning six of their first seven matches and were later undefeated at home, winning seven from seven games at Skilled Park.
The streak gave them first place on the ladder in rounds six, seven and ten, however a broken arm to captain and halfback Scott Prince while representing Queensland in game three of the State of Origin series saw his season end prematurely and the Titans fall to a four game losing streak from which they struggled to recover.
They finished 2008 in 13th place but the year would serve as a strong foundation for future success.
The season began in similar fashion to 2008, with the Titans racing out of the blocks to register five wins from their first six matches. However, this time the Titans maintained their form throughout the 26 rounds of the regular season to finish in third spot on the ladder with 16 wins.
The top-four finish saw the Titans create history by qualifying for their first finals series and have the added advantage of a home final. However, they were defeated in the historic first semi-final against the Broncos at Skilled Park by 40-32 before being knocked out of finals contention the following week in a 27-2 loss to a red-hot Parramatta outfit at the Sydney Football Stadium.
In 2010, the club backed up that effort to qualify for the finals with a foutth placed finish – which again granted the club a home final in the opening week of the play-offs.
The Titans kicked off their finals campaign with a convincing 28-16 win over the New Zealand Warriors to qualify for the club’s first preliminary final. The club went within 80 minutes of making the grand final before their run was ended with a 32-6 loss to the Sydney Roosters, who stormed into grand final contention with a late season surge.
In stark contrast to their previous two seasons when the Titans were renowned for making strong starts to the year, 2011 began with four losses from the club’s first six matches. It what was to prove a tough season, the Titans finished the year with only six wins and lost a final round match against Parramatta to finish with the wooden spoon for the first time.
The year would mark the end of an era for the club with the departure of inaugural squad members Preston Campbell, Anthony Laffranchi, Brad Meyers and Nathan Friend.
To fill the void, the club was able to snare the signatures of a handful of high profile recruits headlined by Jamal Idris, Nate Myles and Beau Champion as well as highly rated Bulldogs junior Aidan Sezer ahead of the 2012 season.
The other silver lining to the 2011 season was the emergence of several youngsters within the Titans ranks such as under-20s hooker Matt Srama, playmaker Jordan Rankin, young forward Ben Ridge and winger/centre Dominique Peyroux.
The 2012 season started off with a bang, with the Titans leaving the North Queensland Cowboys scoreless in an 18-0 victory in which new recruit Idris bagged two tries. However, five straight losses followed as the Titans' new roster took time to gel and establish combinations.
A 26-14 defeat of reigning premiers Manly at Brookvale in round seven proven to be a turning point for the Titans season, with the club winning seven of their next 12 matches.
After putting together three successive wins heading into the final stretch of games, the Titans' dream of a late surge towards the finals hit a speed bump when they narrowly lost to the in-form South Sydney Rabbitohs in round 22.
In the end, the club’s slow start to the year proved too difficult to overcome, with the Titans falling just short of a finals berth. However, the club’s form over the second half of the season, a new playing roster which appeared to be gelling and the recruitment of hulking representative forward David Taylor provided the Titans with plenty to look forward to ahead of 2013.
Amidst financial pressures of 2012, with the state of the art Centre of Excellence having to be sold and new investors brought into the club, there was tremendous recovery on and off the field in 2013 with the Titans missing the final eight by just two competition points.
After winning four of their first five games which put them in sixth position, the side was hit by injuries to key players in the second half of the season. They were in fifth position after round 16 when they lost giant in-form centre Jamal Idris for the rest of the season.
However, with the NRL’s least experienced halves combination of Albert Kelly and Aidan Sezer in fine form, the team stayed in contention for the top eight right down to the last round loss to third placed Melbourne, by 23-22. In the final few rounds they beat grand finalists Canterbury 26-16 and Sydney Roosters (30-22) and during the season recorded the club’s three biggest wins – 42-4 against Parramatta in Mudgee, 36-0 against Canberra and 36-6 against Wests Tigers at Skilled Stadium.
It was a season that saw co-captain Nate Myles played a prominent role in Queensland’s eighth straight State of Origin series victory (he played in all eight), Greg Bird against represent NSW and both selected to represent Australia at the World Cup in England. Other World Cup reps from the Titans were Luke Douglas (Scotland), Mark Minichiello (Italy), Brad Takairangi (Cook Islands) and David Mead (Papua New Guinea) while Bird, Kevin Gordon, Ryan James and Aidan Sezer played for the Prime Minister’s XII.
The 2014 season started brilliantly for the Titans, with the team winning five of their first six games. By round five the Titans were at the top of the table but injury intervened after round eight with the Titans in third position on the ladder after a convincing away win against Wests Tigers.
Halfback Albert Kelly was injured in that game and would play just four more games and a fortnight later five-eighth Aidan Sezer suffered a tear to his pectoral muscle.
The side dropped down the ladder after winning just two of the next 17 games as the injury toll became critical with stalwart Ashley Harrison, a Queensland representative, retiring early because of a neck injury, and Ryan James being sidelined for the season after playing just four NRL games in 2014. At one stage 15 players were unavailable because of injury.
In August, an official review into all aspects of the Titans operations had begun and head coach Cartwright announced that he was standing down, and founder and former managing director Michael Searle also stood down from any day to day involvement in the club . This saw assistant coach Neil Henry take the reins for the final four rounds. Form picked up with the Titans extended Manly, the competition leaders, for 80 minutes before going down 15-12 at Cbus Super Stadium.
The last match of the season, against grand-final bound Canterbury at Robina, was a spectacular come from behind victory and one of the club’s best in its history. Down 18-0 early in the second half, the Titans fought back to level 18-all before a William Zillman field goal sealed a 19-18 victory after almost three minutes of extra time with a 30m field goal .
The win provided the perfect parting gift for Titans veteran Mark Minichello, who was the last of the Titans’ originals to lace up his boots for the club. He had played 173 games for the Titans. Another Titans original of 2007, Luke Bailey, also retired at season end with 150 games for the club, but unfortunately missed the last two games because of a back injury. They were the last ‘originals’ after eight seasons.
A season that began in turmoil off the field finished with the club in a stronger financial situation courtesy of NRL ownership and a host of bright young talent promising that there are better days ahead.
The overwhelming favourite for the wooden spoon when the season kicked off, the Titans worked their way into the top eight mid-year courtesy of a rookie halfback by the name of Kane Elgey and the blistering speed of James Roberts.
There was a sizeable clean-out of the roster and in winning three of their last six games the young newcomers showed enough character for the club to stay clear of the wooden spoon.
Their home form improved, winning five of 12 games with five of their losses decided by 10 points or less.
Following the introduction of Elgey in Round 4 the Titans had no problems getting across the try line, scoring 30-plus points in three straight weeks for the first time in the club's history.
Roberts and Anthony Don were the main beneficiaries as they sat atop the NRL's top try-scorers list but as the injuries mounted in the halves, the points dried up. Their average of four line breaks per game was second only to the Roosters and their 11 offloads per game second to the Panthers.
Such was the extent of the Titans' injury toll mid-year that coach Neil Henry was forced to make two purchases just prior to the June 30 deadline to fill the roster. Former Rooster Nene Macdonald went on to play 11 games for the Titans while Chad Redman had seven games for the Titans after transferring from Newcastle. The Titans missed Greg Bird, Aidan Sezer, Kane Elgey, Beau Falloon and Kierran Moseley for extended periods during a season in which they used 31 players.
The Titans may have missed the finals for a fifth straight year, however after his first full season in charge coach Neil Henry has hinted at further changes to the roster over the next 12 months but believed they were compiling a playing group capable of challenging for a place in the top eight in 2016.
When Neil Henry set about overhauling the Titans roster 12 months earlier he went looking for people, not players.
He wanted men in the organisation who would bring a professionalism to what the playing group did on and off the field and who would set an example for the youngsters coming up through the junior ranks.
Foundation player Nathan Friend supplemented his meagre one-year deal with days on the job site laying bricks while the likes of Zeb Taia and Chris McQueen brought a hard, uncompromising edge to the forward pack.
He also needed strength and conditioning staff who could mould this new-look squad into a team that got stronger as other teams wilted and brought in Matt Ford from Canberra and Sean Edwards from South Sydney.
These were the building blocks behind a season in which the Titans defied the bookmakers and basically every so-called expert in the game who said they would finish dead last.
With wins over the Knights and Wests Tigers in their first two home games they showed Gold Coast footy fans that if they bought a ticket they'd see their team compete and the mid-season additions of Konrad Hurrell, Nathan Peats and Jarryd Hayne added star power to a club that had recently struggled to attract any.
A five-game losing streak from Round 5 threatened to derail their season and prove the pundits correct but with Greg Bird and Ryan James leading the way up front and Ashley Taylor (who went on to win the 2016 NRL Rookie of the Year award) and Nene Macdonald enjoying breakout seasons, momentum began to build again.
A golden-point win in Perth over the Rabbitohs in Round 13 was significant and an 18-all draw that ended the Sharks' 15-game winning streak showed they deserved to be taken seriously and they were rewarded with a first finals appearance in six years.
Everything that could go wrong did go wrong in the Elimination Final against arch rivals Brisbane but they still fought on and only trailed by 12 points 14 minutes from full-time before losing 44-28.
For a club that was on its knees 18 months ago, the Titans are now standing proudly on their own two feet.
On and off the field 2016 will be remembered as a year of tremendous success for the Titans. The last four home games all attracted crowds in excess of 14,000, a feat the club hadn't achieved since 2012 and the signing of Hayne electrified a city that was already beginning to fall in love with their football team again. A crowd of 530 turned out to watch them train ahead of their Elimination Final against the Broncos and with world-class facilities to be ready and waiting for them at Parkwood when pre-season begins in November the Titans are a club on the up and up.