The three club legends who can save Titans from extinction

The blueprint for the future success of the Titans lies in the club's past, if they care to look.

Community. Commitment. Class.

These are the pillars the Titans were founded upon and, as candidates to replace recently deposed coach Garth Brennan mount by the dozen, should form the basis of the club’s ethos.

NRL.com understands club powerbrokers are leaning towards a head coach with a reputation as a man manager, not a disciplinarian brought in to whip an under-performing roster into shape.

But in the wake of Mal Meninga's review of the football department, the first step should be to appoint three club legends as assistant coaches.

Preston Campbell, Nathan Friend and Scott Prince.

Community, commitment and class.

Three of the 2007 originals who played more than 100 games for the club, Campbell remains one of the most beloved figures on the Gold Coast, Friend played 242 games based on complete dedication to physical preparation and Prince is regarded as one of the smartest tactical brains of the modern game.

NRL.com has been told Friend was so desperate to help resurrect the club's on-field performance that shortly after Brennan's appointment in October 2017 he approached the coach, executive chairman Dennis Watt and co-owner Rebecca Frizelle to offer his services, only to be told the budget wouldn't allow it.

Instead club hierarchy have been trying to force separate pieces together from different puzzles hoping something would eventually fit.

Since the sacking of inaugural coach John Cartwright in August 2014, staff and players have been brought in from Townsville, Sydney, Newcastle, Canberra and Brisbane, playing into the stereotype that the Gold Coast is a place populated by people from elsewhere and without a soul of its own.

Look through the football departments of successful NRL clubs and you will see a consistent spread of former legends connecting today’s players to the club’s history.

Craig Fitzgibbon at the Roosters; Billy Slater at the Storm; Justin Hodges and Corey Parker at the Broncos; Paul Bowman, Ash Graham and Aaron Payne at the Cowboys; Brett Stewart at the Sea Eagles.

Other than football manager Anthony Laffranchi, the Titans seem to have made a conscious decision to keep many of those who helped to build the club at arm’s length.

When Friend returned to the Titans in 2016 on minimum wage for the final season of his career the club had changed significantly, yet he was a key figure in a gritty side under Neil Henry that scrapped its way to a finals appearance.

Prince has made steady progress in his coaching career and his role as Queensland under 20s coach would do the club no harm in the battle for the best young talent emerging in south-east Queensland and the Northern Rivers of NSW.

Given Tim Sheens has been touted as a potential contender for the head coaching role, his connection with Prince at the 2005 premiership-winning Wests Tigers provides another piece of synergy.

The influence on the players would also be significant.

Between them Prince and Campbell might be exactly the mentors struggling halfback Ash Taylor needs to resurrect his flailing career while Friend can build on the attributes being shown by inspirational lock Jai Arrow.

Already touted by Maroons legend Billy Moore as a future Queensland leader, Arrow is reportedly the prime target for a number of NRL rivals when he comes off contract at the end of next year, Titans officials fully aware the Burleigh junior’s retention is a priority.

Titans forward Jai Arrow.
Titans forward Jai Arrow. ©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

The former "King of Keebra", Arrow is capable of developing into a leader in the mould of Sam Burgess at Souths, Boyd Cordner at the Roosters and Jake Trbojevic at Manly. He was strongly considered as interim captain when Ryan James went down with an ACL injury early in the year and is garnering a reputation as the first choice for the player others want to line up alongside.

Veteran fullback Michael Gordon, who returns from injury in Sunday's home clash with Melbourne, has no doubt Arrow can develop into such a figure but says there are aspects he needs to improve in order to reach the realm of the likes of Cordner.

"He's a potential future leader if that's what he wants. It's probably up to him whether he wants it or not,” Gordon told NRL.com.

"They're probably different styles of player. Seeing Boyd up close and watching the things he does is unbelievable. He looks like he can't even walk and then he'll come and take a tough carry.

"Jai's still got a bit to get to there but he's a different style of player and the work he gets through is unbelievable.

"There are probably a few little things at the back that I pick up that I'm always into him about.

"If he tidies those things up he'll be a 10-year Australian and Origin player."

But more importantly for the Gold Coast, a 10-year Titan.

The views in this article do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.