Gold Coast Titans - 2013 Preview

The conundrum facing Titans fans this season is rooted in the conflicting philosophies surrounding the tenure of head coach John Cartwright: could it be a case of three times lucky or will it be the slippery-dip of three strikes and you're out? After falling just a smidgeon short of the ultimate prize in 2010 and then inking an unprecedented five year contract coach Cartwright has delivered a woeful wooden spoon in 2011 followed by an under-achieving 11th last year. It is unlikely that the incoming CEO David May will be feeling anywhere near as magnanimous as the previous executive if the team doesn't play a serious part in the 2013 Finals program.

Just as a lobster sheds its skin as it matures, the club has rid itself of some of the inhibitors that have hampered it from developing over recent seasons. Not the least of these has been the corralling of founding front man Michael Searle ensuring that 2013 will be about the players. Beau "Glassman" Champion and seven others have been released to seek greener pastures while inaugural skipper Scott Prince scarpered up the highway to join Brisbane. 

The media trumpeted calamity at Prince's assumed defection; however, Titans insiders all breathed a sigh of relief. The team which had thrived under the three-pronged attack of Preston Campbell, Mat Rogers and Prince had become a one-dimensional outfit following the retirement of Campbell and Rogers. Although he had toiled hard, Prince's dictatorial style had slowly but surely strangled the NRL's newest franchise's creativity. It was well and truly time for him to move on.

2013 looms as a watershed season. The clubs well-documented financial crises have eased under a new management structure with some stringent guidelines imposed by the ARLC. The arrival of marquee signing, giant Dave Taylor, along with precocious talent Albert Kelly and a host of opportunists have raised the spirits of the previously flagging Gold Coast rugby league community. Competition for first grade slots and a punishing preseason training regime have the squad champing at the bit for their Round 1 away appointment with Cronulla at Shark Park.

That date with destiny will also mark the end of the most agonizing of off-seasons during which the club has been the target of a one man crusade to keep the Titans in the headlines. News' journalist Peter Badel seems to have made it his personal goal to scarper season 2013 before a ball has been kicked in anger. The club's management, coaching, player recruitment, finances, facilities and fan base have all come under his hypercritical microscope; even the CEO's wife was fair game. Most recently a five year old jar of something that appeared to be pee, most likely left in the plumbing system by construction workers, was construed to indicate illegal substance abuse