Titans put heart back into their home
It had been converted from a graveyard into a holiday playground by visiting teams but the Gold Coast Titans have finally found the way to turn their home base at Robina into a fortress again.
Sunday's 30-12 win over the Newcastle Knights was the 50th victory at the venue since they relocated from Carrara to the purpose-built stadium in 2008 and was the club's fourth win on the trot at Cbus Super Stadium.
The last time the Titans won four games in succession at home was in 2010 when they qualified for the Preliminary Final and coach Neil Henry has made winning home games a priority since taking over at the end of the 2014 season.
In the past five seasons the Titans have given fans on the Gold Coast little to cheer about with a winning percentage of just 37 per cent with 22 wins from 59 games.
As the losses dried up so did the crowds with attendance in a steady decline since the heady days of 2010 when the Titans boasted the fourth best average home crowd in the NRL with 17,877. Home crowds have fallen every year since to the point where the average attendance last season was just 11,251 to rank 14th among the 16 NRL clubs.
A crowd of 8,313 turned out on Sunday evening for Round 1 in warm conditions that transformed into torrential rain midway through the game and co-captain Nathan Friend is promising fans that if they turn up in 2016 they will see their team compete against any team in the NRL.
Friend was a member of the Titans squad in 2008 that won their first seven games at Robina in a row and said it is crucial to their finals aspirations to have a winning record at home and extending the current streak to five against the Wests Tigers in Round 3.
"It's a blue collar game and families have to fork out some money to come to games and it's disheartening as a fan if you come there and see your team throw in the towel. You're not going to see that this year," Friend told NRL.com.
"There is a lot of enthusiasm in the young fellas and the old guys aren't going to just toss in the towel so I think it's a great mix to be honest.
"We're going to be very competitive all year and I think you probably saw against the Knights that we have got a team full of goers that are very competitive and work well for each other. We've just got to build on that and we know internally that we're in a good headspace.
"Our first seven home games that we won [in 2008] was probably because we came from Carrara which is mostly an AFL stadium and we came to Skilled Park at the time that had such a great feel and the support we had back in the day was epic.
"We need to get back to something like that. That would be fantastic."
Prior to the current winning streak hooker Daniel Mortimer had won just two games at Robina since joining the club midway through the 2014 season and said it is an issue that the players and coaching staff have discussed at length.
"We've spoken about winning at home. We won our last three games at home last year and everyone was pretty proud of that because we hadn't been too great at home before," Mortimer said.
"We want the fans to come to our home ground expecting us to win and we want to expect to win.
"Hopefully we can carry that on and make the Gold Coast trip for other sides a tough one."