It's the Titans!
Ladies and gentlemen, in 2007 Rugby League will become the latest sport to try to establish a franchise on the Gold Coast. Yes, it's old news, but this time they're really serious about it. Of course, they've tried before. Who could ever forget the Giants/Seagulls/Chargers of 1988-98? Well, OK, perhaps it wasn't memorable for everyone -- those teams certainly weren't what you'd call successful, but for comic relief, they were certainly on a winner! I have particularly fond memories of the final years of that "team" when they were called the Chargers. I was a Penrith interloper among the coast faithful, but they accepted me kindly. They probably thought of me as something of a kindred spirit in those days.
Unemployed at the time, I remember regularly walking from Chevron Island (near Surfers Paradise -- probably a 14km round trip) out to Carrara to watch them. For someone in my situation at the time, it was cheap entertainiment -- $10 to get in and basically sit wherever I felt like it. No need to queue for anything, no need to book ahead -- just another leisurely Saturday Night watching the Coast get another hiding. Not that it always happened on a Saturday Night -- they lost on Friday night's, they lost on Sundays, they lost on Saturday afternoons. The only thing they didn't lose was the Plate final in the pre-season sevens tournament one year. The Plate was the competition for teams who had not won a match in the qualifying rounds -- a sort of loser's trophy. There's no way we weren't gonna win that one. Pride was at stake here -- this was a loser's competition and when it came to losing, we were the coast with the most!
I still remember the "stars" of that team. Wes "The General" Patten, the halfback. He was a brilliant "off-the-cuff" player, a man who with one play could single-handedly win a match. Trouble was he ran a bit hot and cold, and was just as likely to lose the same match five minutes later with a dumb play that would leave the halfback of the Weelabarraback under 7's scratching his head. Tony Durheim -- the stalwart, he really fitted the mould. I remember when he ran with the ball, the crowd would call out "Just hang on to it". In defence he was nicknamed "the human turnstile". He must have been sacked half a dozen times by the club, but always seemed to find a way back.
Then there was the fearless Chris Nahi. So fearless, in fact, that he was entirely predictable to opposition defences, and everyone in the world (including undiscovered Amazon tribes) knew what he would do when he got the ball. He would have probably been glad the Chargers folded, the way he ran the ball he was likely to end up as a trophy on someone's mantle-piece before too much longer. I remember one night watching one of his usual fearless, predicable runs, which resulted in an absolute hammering by the opposition defence. Five minutes later, when we heard an ambulance siren, nobody in the ground was surprised. Who could forget Adrian Vowles? The team's "star" centre who was once quoted in the media as saying he was "ashamed" to admit he played for them.
Then there was Marcus Bai. Now Marcus was a bit different to the rest of the Chargers' pin-ups -- he really could play. Big, strong, fast and determined. Problem was, he played out on the wing, and there was nobody in the centre of the field with the skill to get the ball to him when he could really do some damage. The only thing Marcus ever caught on the wing (during his one and only season with the Coast) was frostbite on some of the southern grounds. What a team! Still, we were content. There's a kind of tranquility about life's certainties, and watching the Coast get another hiding provided it.
If we ever got bored, there were always club administrators to ridicule. One time club owner Jeff Muller used to hire players if his wife thought they "had a cute butt". He had wanted Parramatta legend Ray Price on the coaching staff because Price had been his hero. Price resigned two days later in disgust at the farcical way the club was being run. The next morning, Price found Muller's framed photo of him smashed to bits on his lawn. Then there was Vic Folitarik's infamous "No" in response to being asked whether then coach Wally Lewis was a good coach (but the club couldn't afford to sack him). I am not making any of this up.
This time, however, they appear to be serious. This time they're going to make it work. Well, I suppose there's hope in the fact that they haven't re-hired Tony Durheim to make up the numbers again. For all that, I'm not entirely sure I'll be a regular at the games of the new franchise. For one thing, I have too many other things to do with my time these days. For another, what if I have to actually wait in line for five minutes (or, God forbid, book ahead) for a ticket? And what if they start winning? Well, stranger things have happened.