Bails and Mini take Titans trivia
Of the collection of men who were gathered from dots all along the eastern seaboard to form the NRL's newest team in the summer of 2006/07, there are but two who remain: Luke Bailey and Mark Minichiello.
Following the departure of foundation coach John Cartwright a month ago, a significant chapter in the history of the Gold Coast Titans will close on Sunday when both men are farewelled at Cbus Super Stadium.
Minichiello will add to his record 172 appearances while Bailey has been reduced to the role of spectator after doctors ruled he could risk serious injury if he played with the neck injury that kept him out of last week's loss to the Warriors.
Before speaking of the bond that was forged eight years ago under the whip of head trainer Billy Johnstone and in oppressive heat, NRL.com decided to find out, once and for all, who is the most Titan-est player of all time with a sudden-death round of Titans trivia.
What are the club's official colours?
Bails: Blue, white and gold. Purple?
Mini: Sea blue, sun yellow, navy blue? [Told white and black] White and black? Where's the black?
Answer: Sea, white, sun, black
Name the three previous Gold Coast teams.
Bails: Chargers. That's it, there's only one. Gold Coast Bikies?
Mini: Chargers, Seagulls... was there three? Giants!
Answer: Seagulls, Giants and Chargers
What was the result of the Titans' first game in 2007?
Bails: Close one, think we lost by a try, I'll say 20-16 against Saints.
Mini: We lost to the Dragons at Suncorp Stadium. By six points? I was going to say 20-14.
Answer: 20-18 loss to St George Illawarra at Suncorp Stadium
Who scored the Titans' first premiership try?
Bails: I know who scored the first one at Skilled; myself. Matt Petersen? [Told Chris Walker] Sorry 'Walks'.
Mini: Chris Walker
Answer: Chris Walker
What is the Titans' biggest ever win?
Bails: Raiders? Wests Tigers? [Told the answer] Yeah, that was a good score.
Mini: I don't know.
Answer: 42-4 over Eels in Mudgee, Rd 11, 2013
What is the Titans' greatest ever loss?
Bails: Was it last week? First year? I mustn't have played that game.
Mini: Wasn't the weekend was it? Nah, no idea.
Answer: 56-10 defeat by the Raiders, Rd 18, 2007
Who were the first joint winners of the Paul Broughton Medal as Titans player of the year?
Bails: Bailey and Laffranchi
Mini: Luke Bailey and Anthony Laffranchi. Should have been me.
Answer: Luke Bailey and Anthony Laffranchi
Who is the youngest player to have represented the Titans?
Mini: Jordan Rankin
Answer: Jordan Rankin (16 years and 238 days)
Up until Round 26, 2014, who has scored the most tries for the club?
Bails: Dave Mead?
Mini: David Mead? [Told Kevin Gordon] I knew it was one of them!
Answer: Kevin Gordon (57)
Result: Bails 5, Mini 7
When Bailey and Minichiello leave Cbus Super Stadium for the final time at around 5pm on Sunday afternoon 323 games of Titans experience goes with them along with the last connection to those formative days.
In being part of an NRL start-up 'Bails' and 'Mini' got to experience something few players will in their careers and they both said that the 29 players who played in that inaugural season bonded over hard training and an active social life.
As well as fostering a family-friendly atmosphere with regular get-togethers, the Titans' inaugural squad also bonded in the old-fashioned away but there was an edict from day one that for the most part kept them from sin city's temptations.
"When we first come in the first thing that was said to us was that we weren't allowed in Surfers," recalls Minichiello. "We weren't allowed east of the cab rank and that restricted us to a few places we could go out and have a drink and have a good time but that helped in those early years to keep us out of trouble and limit us to a few different places.
"We bonded pretty quickly. When we first come together we went down to Casuarina on a camp down there and we trained and had a couple of drinks and got to know each other down there and it built from there.
"We definitely enjoyed each other's company in those first years. We went out a fair bit and got to know each other and when you do that you tend to get closer, especially because we were training so hard together. That also brings you pretty close.
Although he recalled one young member of the squad venturing into Surfers only to be assaulted and then subsequently fined by the club for being there in the first place, Bailey says the ground rules were laid out very clearly.
"That was the best part about it, every year 'Searley' (former managing director Michael Searle) would address the group and we'd have a policeman come in and tell us about where it was safe and where we'd get looked after and if we go [in Surfers] it's out of their control," said the 34-year-old.
Bailey moved to the Gold Coast from the much cooler clime of Wollongong while Minichiello was relocating from Sydney and the combination of Queensland heat and Billy Johnstone's sadistic training methods remains a vivid memory.
"It was tough. It was hot, it was old school, Billy Johnstone was the trainer and there were plenty of touch-ups involved but we did good," says Bailey. "We formed a pretty tight-knit group on the back of some tough training. The thing that stands out from the first couple of years was just tough, hard, hot and uncomfortable, and I shed about five kilos."
Adds Minichiello: "It was an exciting time. Everything was new and fresh, no one really knew each other, we had Billy Johnstone there at the time so we trained very hard and although we trained hard I think we had a good time as well. We had a good bunch of blokes and it was really exciting."
On March 18, 2007 the Titans lost their first game to the famous Red V 20-18 in front of 42,030 people at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, a game Minichiello still describes as one of the best he has ever played in.
It laid a foundation for a Titans team to go within one game of a Grand Final three years later, a foundation that will now be left to the next generation of players to build upon.