GC RUNS OUT OF ‘CHARGE’
Anger was the prevailing reaction when the Gold Coast Chargers were dumped by the NRL 20 years ago
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.