2006 vital to league future
By BOB ANTHONY
firstname.lastname@example.org THIS year is pivotal for rugby league on the Gold Coast.
With the Gold Coast Titans laying the foundations for their entry into the 2007 NRL competition next year, the 2006 season will be a "golden opportunity" to consolidate the code from both players' and supporters' points of view.
That's the opinion of Tweed Heads Seagulls football administrator Jack Stiles, a league veteran with more than 64 years in the code as a player and administrator.
Stiles believes this year will be crucial in laying the foundations for the Titans next year.
Seagulls and the Burleigh Bears will be the feeder clubs for the Gold Coast NRL team. Seagulls will be fielding teams in the Queensland Cup, the Former Origin Greats Competition and the Gold Coast rugby league competition.
Stiles said support for clubs, particularly those in the local Gold Coast competition, would be vital in fending off strong challenges to the code from other winter sports, particularly AFL.
It's a view supported by Burleigh Bears CEO and former Gold Coast Seagulls NRL player Adrian Vowles.
Like Seagulls, the Bears will field six teams in three different levels of rugby league competition this season, and Vowles is confident his club will have the depth to challenge in all levels.
Vowles, like Stiles, believes that having the Titans based locally will give young players in both the Gold Coast competition and the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League plenty of incentive to impress.
It will also give players a clear path to achieve at the highest level.
He said Titans head coach John Cartwright had already been out having a look at some of the local trial matches.
Vowles, who played for the Tweed-Gold Coast Seagulls, the Queensland State Of Origin side and then in the UK, said the reintroduction of a rugby league team in the NRL competition was "long overdue".
"People didn't realise what they had in their own backyards until the team was gone," he said.
"Now I think once they know they don't have to drive or travel a long way to see top-class league, they'll really take to the Titans."
With more than 12,000 turning out for the NRL trial match at Carrara between the NZ Warriors and the Canterbury Bulldogs, there is no doubt there is a clear market for top-class rugby league on the Gold Coast.
The Burleigh CEO said that he was keen to build strong links with the Titans, considering they would be virtually neighbours once the new stadium at Robina was completed in 2008.
He said the Bears had undergone some significant coaching changes, with former player Jim Lenihan taking up the head coaching role for the Queensland Cup side. The Bears have retained about 80 per cent of their Queensland Cup side and believe that experience should serve them well.