GC RUNS OUT OF ‘CHARGE’

Anger was the pre­vail­ing re­ac­tion when the Gold Coast Charg­ers were dumped by the NRL 20 years ago

Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin - - LIFESTYLE -

IT has been a big week of news for the Gold Coast’s NRL side.

The Gold Coast Bul­letin ex­clu­sively re­vealed the Gold Coast Ti­tans had se­cretly de­vel­oped a plan to build a leagues club at Ox­en­ford.

In the pipe­line for two years, this pro­ject is seen as a big step to­wards en­sur­ing the foot­ball club’s fu­ture by cre­at­ing a new revenue stream and giv­ing it some­thing most other teams en­joy.

The news came 20 years af­ter the axe fi­nally fell on the Gold Coast’s first na­tional rugby league side – the Charg­ers.

The team had lasted just 10 years in the com­pe­ti­tion be­fore it was axed as part of a re­or­gan­i­sa­tion of the NRL fol­low­ing the Su­per League war which saw un­suc­cess­ful sides dumped to cut the num­ber of clubs down to 14.

The end of the Charg­ers was an­nounced just two days af­ter the Adelaide Rams were ter­mi­nated.

But there were no tears as the end came for the Coast team, ac­cord­ing to re­ports of the day – just anger.

Aus­tralian Rugby League chief ex­ec­u­tive David Barn­hill, who had been brought in as the club’s in­terim chair­man two months ear­lier, said the club had faced a dif­fi­cult 1999 sea­son had it not been dumped.

The de­ci­sion was made at a board meet­ing of the club’s ex­ec­u­tives be­fore the con­tracted play­ers and 10 ad­min­is­tra­tive staff were told of their fate.

There was a some­times hos­tile meet­ing held with the play­ers and staff at Car­rara Sta­dium’s ‘The Le­gends Bar’ be­fore an an­nounce­ment was made to the pub­lic.

Barn­hill told me­dia the fol­low­ing day he had not slept af­ter the board­room meet­ing.

“Any­one who knows me re­alises I have a gen­uine pas­sion for rugby league and this is the hardest thing I have ever had to do,’’ he said.

“Even my wife is dirty on me over this.

“I can as­sure you the di­rec­tors pur­sued ev­ery pos­si­ble av­enue to re­tain a place in the NRL af­ter 1999. But af­ter con­sid­er­ing the cri­te­ria for 2000 the board re­solved to with­draw from the 1999 premier­ship.

“The board dis­cussed all is­sues in­clud­ing crowds, spon­sors, per­for­mance, the ab­sence of a li­censed club and the NRL’s at­ti­tude to two rules – the salary cap and the an­tipoach­ing rules.

“We had cri­te­ria to meet in 2000, and at this time we can meet that cri­te­ria. That may not have been the case next year.”

The club had fell vic­tim to “foot­ball ter­ror­ism” ac­cord­ing to Charg­ers coach Phil Econo­midis while prop Clin­ton O’Brien called the move a “mercy killing”.

The board was told that the club was not be­ing wound up and that it could con­tinue to op­er­ate in the Gold Coast’s Group 18 com­pe­ti­tion but that it would be ex­cluded from the NRL.

It was also told that if the com­pe­ti­tion was re­vamped with a sec­ond south­east Queens­land team that the Charg­ers would be given a chance to play.

“The di­rec­tors weighed up all the op­tions and CEO Peter Arm­strong and lo­cal di­rec­tors Bill Car­roll and Ray Mur­ray used all their skill and knowl­edge to re­tain the club,’’ Barn­hill said.

Ul­ti­mately the Charg­ers never got the chance to play on – the club was even­tu­ally wound up.

A new NRL side, the Ti­tans re­joined the com­pe­ti­tion in 2007 and have made three fi­nals ap­pear­ances.

ARL CEO David Barn­hill departs a me­dia con­fer­ence hav­ing al­ready told Charg­ers play­ers their team would not have a place the 1999 NRL sea­son, (be­low left) coach Phil Econo­midis and cap­tain Jamie God­dard take in the news and the Charg­ers in ac­tion.

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