Five Drives... and a Kick
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LIFE’S A BEACH GOLD COAST ON THE WOBBLE
If rugby league could be boiled down to classic literature - and often it can - then this would be the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Or more precisely, the Sorcerer’s Apprentices.
Michael Searle, former hooker, is our sorcerer. He conjured up a club on the Gold Coast from the ashes of failed franchises (even though the Chargers were kicked out of the premiership with money in the bank), signed a bunch of stars and took the Titans to the finals. But they are not the Apprentices who have now turned on him, no siree.
Not content with running a successful club and managing champion surfer Joel Parkinson, Searle set about building a ‘Centre of Excellence’ next to the Titans’ gleaming new stadium.
Yes, in this case apprentices - literally turned on Searle. And their bosses, who claimed hundreds of thousands in unpaid bills for work on the building. It’s the Centre Of Excellence which now had the Titans some A$25million in debt, before they sold it recently. But these are not the apprentices to which we refer, either.
Because Searle also sought to leave a lasting impression on rugby league, one that would last even longer than a Centre Of Excellence, he led the push to have an independent commission take over the running of the game in Australia, freeing it from decades of infighting and self-destruction.
This should have been the year of Searle’s greatest triumph. Instead, his kingdom appears to have been laid waste and is on the verge of complete collapse. The Commission - Searle’s real apprentices for the purposes of this tale - are on the verge of taking his team off him.
“I’m not prepared to hand over the club,” Searle recently told the Australian newspaper.
Pure gold: Titans’ Brenton Lawrence claims the ball against the Bulldogs
Phil Ward and Bob Clark - the father of Titans football manager Scott Clark and a major creditor of the property trust - are the men who have purchased the Centre Of
“We are happy that we have been able to bring some finality to the financial difficulties faced by the Titans’ Property Arm in what is also a commercially sound proposition for us,’’ Ward said in a statement issued by the club.
Clark added: “We are pleased that the sale of the CoE will allow the football club to move forward in its dealings with the Australian Rugby League Commission.”
But the sharks are circling. Not those Sharks, they’re staying put for now.
One consortium seeking to take over Searle’s licence is headed by
Walking wounded: Greg Bird looks on from the Skilled Park sidelines
Bill Rae, a wealthy businessman who had been a director of the bid team for a second Brisbane license. Another involves former players Scott Sattler and Scott Hill - who have not declared where their funds are coming from. Mat Rogers has denied he is involved, saying he supports the current administration.
The Rae involvement raises another question - how can the NRL be looking to expand into precisely the part of Australia South East Queensland - where it already has a side with severe financial difficulties?
NRL Chief Executive David Gallop and IC Chairman John Grant were in Canberra for Monday Night Football in round five and spoke candidly about plans to take the license off Searle and give it to someone else.
Gallop later insisted the sale of the Centre Of Excellence was not the cure-all some may see it as.
“If that indeed assists a move towards a viable footy club, then it’s a positive,” Gallop said. “Let me be clear. Our primary concern throughout this has been the footy club and not the building and, therefore, the extent to which this assists the level of indebtedness in the footy club is not clear to us at this stage.
April 2012 Forty-20 7