New Gold Coast Titans executive chairman Dennis Watt believes the club can become a powerhouse of the Telstra Premiership.
The former Broncos chairman was unveiled in his new role when the Titans announced on Friday morning a local consortium headed by former chair Rebecca Frizelle and former director Darryl Kelly would assume ownership of the club from the NRL.
“There is so much potential here and I can see the day when the Titans are going to be seen as a rugby league and sporting powerhouse,” Watt told NRL.com.
“I say that based on the fact that there are really good people involved here from the outset, with the licence being finalised.
“We are sitting on rugby league heartland. Everyone says that a degree of the population is transient, which is true, because it is a holiday destination.
“But when you look at the heritage of the Gold Coast and northern NSW it has traditionally been rugby league territory.”
Watt said he was up for the challenge presented by being involved in a battle to “save the heartland” from the AFL.
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“The reality is that the AFL is spending millions trying to win the hearts and minds of the Gold Coast, so it is a real battle ground for the NRL in ensuring you get a really strong competitive national franchise here that will stand the test of time,” he said.
“There is a real excitement around the potential of the Titans club and the community. You just want to see it flourish with great community involvement and great community support. There is only one way to look, and that is up.”
Watt said the new owners, Frizelle and Kelly, were the right choice and would make a positive contribution to the club.
“They have settled in for the long haul in terms of making this a sustainable success and have worked really hard to this point.
“They were both part of the board when the NRL took over and Darryl in particular made enormous sacrifices in terms of ensuring the Titans have a future.
“Both are successful in their own right and have a commitment to the club and the community. They are in it for the right reasons. They want to see the club succeed and they have solid plans around that but there is also a real selflessness about it, and that has enormous appeal to me.”
Watt, also formerly a director at the Storm, has worked with two of the greatest coaches of all time in Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bennett.
So when he says that new Titans coach Garth Brennan has what it takes to be a success, he speaks with authority.
“I have been very impressed with the new coach, his energy and his ideas,” he said.
“He has a track record of success. He wins titles. I love the fact that he had 18 years in the police force. He has seen some real tough situations.
“I think he is a bit of [an] inspired choice. When you talk to coaching staff and players it is pretty obvious there is a real buzz here. They are working hard and there is a bit of innovation to what they are doing.
“Garth is a guy, like the great coaches Wayne Bennett and Craig Bellamy, who genuinely cares about his footballers as individuals and family people.”
Watt had four years as Broncos chairman and prior to that was a director and the general manager of rugby league for News Corp at the Melbourne Storm where his role was to stabilise the club in the wake of the salary cap saga and then sell it.
The club won a premiership (2012) during his tenure.
“It was a similar role to the one that has been designed here [at the Titans] as executive chairman where you are working on the business and in the business,” Watt said.
“It gives you a chance to connect with everyone in and around the organisation, key stakeholders, sponsors and the grass roots.
“At the Broncos I was chairman for four years and the last two years I set myself to work full-time to help [CEO] Paul White through his brain tumour treatment, and to see the new [Clive Berghofer Centre] completed.”
New Titans co-owner Frizelle said the appointment of Watt as chairman was an "incredible coup" for the Titans after he was widely tipped to join an expanded and revamped Australian Rugby League Commission after standing down from his role at Brisbane in October.
"To have someone of Dennis' calibre involved with the Titans, bringing his enormous experience and track record of success, is one of the most significant recruitment victories in the history of this club," Frizelle said.
"Dennis is universally respected across the rugby league and business communities for the work he has done, the leadership he has shown and the success that he has delivered across different industries.
"We know that Dennis was in understandably high demand after deciding to leave the Broncos, so for him to join the Titans is a tremendous show of faith in the plans that we have for this club to reach its true potential."
Current independent board members, Griffith University Senior Deputy Vice Chancellor Professor Ned Pankhurst, Pindara Group of Hospitals CEO Trish Hogan, founder of Hickey Lawyers and Chairman of Hickey Management Tony Hickey, and CEO of TEG Geoff Jones will also join Watts on the board.