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Community key to future of Titans

Tony Webeck, Chief Queensland Correspondent NRL.com Wed, Aug 06, 2014 - 6:00 AM

Foundation Titans coach John Cartwright will lead his team one more time before stepping down. Copyright: SMP Images/QRL Media

Two of the Gold Coast's most prominent rugby league figures have urged the local community to build on the foundation laid by outgoing director Michael Searle and coach John Cartwright and ensure the Titans not only survive but prosper.

The driving force behind the most successful of the four Gold Coast premiership franchises to date, Searle stepped down from his position as a director of the club last week and will end his tenure as executive director of football at the end of the season. He continues to hold the position as majority shareholder with a close to 40 per cent stake in the club.

Foundation coach Cartwright will oversee his 192nd and final game as head coach on Monday night against the Roosters having guided the Titans to finals appearances in 2009 and 2010 but will continue at the club in a non-football role.

A member of the original bid team alongside Searle and a former boss of the defunct Gold Coast Chargers, Paul Broughton's relationship with the Cartwright family goes back to 1967 when he assisted John's father Merv with junior development structures ahead of Penrith's entry into the New South Wales Rugby League.

A vehement supporter of Cartwright throughout his tenure – even after quitting as chairman in 2012 following revelations surrounding debts owed by the club – Broughton said the onus is now on Gold Coast locals to take spiritual ownership of the club.

"The game only belongs to two groups of people; players and the fans. We might administer it, we might be the people that own the team itself but the game belongs to the players and the fans," said Broughton, who has the Titans' player of the year award named in his honour.

"If players win the games, the fans will support it. The fans can't be convinced to follow a team that is not performing; they won't do it.

"We are a migrant city and I still think, as much as the Gold Coast Titans have done in the community – and they have done so much for the community, I want you to quote me on that – we all need heroes. Kids need heroes but adults need heroes too so we need to be able to put our hand up and say, 'Hey, I'm a Titans fan.' It's not enough for the fans at the present stage to be saying, 'They won' or 'They lost', they need to be saying, 'We won' and 'We lost'. That's when they're really aligned with the team itself.

"There were hundreds of meetings and thousands of kilometres [before the club was admitted in 2007] but I think we proved in '07, '08, '09 and 2010 that we were viable, I'm just so sad that things didn't work out as well as they should have."

Having moved to the Gold Coast in 1988 to play first with the Seagulls and then the Giants, Maroons legend Chris Close has been intimately involved with the evolution of the Titans and said that both men should be proud of the contribution they have made to the game on the Gold Coast. 

"It's very easy to have a throwaway line about the degree of success that they're having at the moment, it's very easy to find the negatives in the whole situation, but I think people should be very positive and remember that Michael Searle brought a rugby league team to the Gold Coast that is now nationally recognised," Close told NRL.com. "It's a very, very strong brand and I think the Gold Coast really deserves to have that team and Michael was responsible for bringing that team to the Coast.

"John Cartwright was the inaugural coach and through all the difficulties that he's had to go through, he's managed to keep that team on the paddock, every week and have a degree of success that I think he can be very proud of.

"What people don't understand is that this whole project was embarked upon at the outset of the greatest global financial crisis known to the world in recent times, yet the club has succeeded and continued to exist until right now. That alone, without the financial turmoil that [Searle] suffered with his builders and the whole project that it became, really indicates to me that they've done a fantastic job.

"It has been an incredible achievement under the most extreme circumstances you could possibly imagine. There isn't another club that has had to set up, in their entirety, under the same climate, and I think that needs to be recognised."

Having qualified for the finals in 2009 and 2010, the viability of the Titans' franchise came under extreme scrutiny under the weight of multi-million dollar legal disputes surrounding the failed Centre of Excellence at Robina.

They collected the wooden spoon in 2011 and failed to make the finals in two subsequent seasons and Close believes that Cartwright's ability to get the best out of his squad was hindered by continuing financial uncertainty.

"I had some very, very sound businessmen say to me that [Searle] was gone three or four years ago and obviously they underestimated his resilience and his courage and his character," Close said of the controversy that engulfed Searle, who was also a driving force behind the establishment of the Indigenous All Stars concept.

"I was there from the beginning of this situation as far as when the turmoil raised its ugly head but I can tell you that Michael Searle did everything that he could. His integrity was certainly intact and he lost a lot himself.

"But, the old story is that if you throw enough shit at a blanket some of it is going to stick, and in this case, sadly for Michael, he's realising that but he also hasn't let it get to him.

"Sadly, the club's had some real turmoil over the last four or five years and there's no doubt in my mind that has affected Johnny's opportunity to reach the full potential of the club and also of his own coaching career.

"Let's be very honest about this, the club isn't performing at its best and sadly, when that happens people that lead those positions in the club come under the microscope and this is certainly a case of that.

"It doesn't take away from what they have achieved coming up to this situation, that should always be remembered and respected and in different circumstances John Cartwright's career could have been a much more shining career than what it actually looks like at the moment.

"Circumstances really do dictate those results and he's been a victim of circumstance."