Gold Coast Titans moving to the country
THE Titans will use next year's Commonwealth Games lockout from Robina's Cbus Super Stadium to help grow their brand, taking games to Toowoomba and Gladstone as part of the greatest regional push in NRL history.
The NRL has confirmed games will be held across seven regional locations in Queensland and NSW next season, with matches at Cairns, Mudgee, Tamworth, Bathurst and Gosford as well as the Titans' Toowoomba and Gladstone clashes.
With the club's regular home venue unavailable for several weeks through March and April next year during the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, the Titans have been forced to relocate two "home" fixtures.
Chief executive Graham Annesley conceded the shift would be a blow for the club's Gold Coast-based fans but said there were opportunities for the club to expand its supporter base.
"Whilst we would have obviously preferred to played all of our home games at Cbus in front of our loyal members and fans, we see this as a great opportunity to grow our brand and club's footprint across Queensland," Annesley said.
"As the 2018 season draw has not yet been released, we still don't know the exact rounds or opponent for each match."
While the draw is still being finalised, early indications are Toowoomba will host a match in late March, likely in Round 3, with Gladstone to host a Round 5 game in April.
Annesley praised the State Government for its help in moving games to traditional rugby league areas Toowoomba and Gladstone that will benefit from having NRL games in their cities.
"Minister Kate Jones and Tourism and Events Queensland are to be complimented for minimising the impact on the Titans regular season, whilst ensuring the club is not commercially disadvantaged as a result of the unavoidable relocation during a period when the eyes of the sporting world will be on the Gold Coast," Annesley said.
Gladstone has never hosted an NRL competition match and a substantial crowd is expected to pack into Marley Brown Oval for the first major rugby league clash since the Storm and Wests Tigers faced off in a pre-season clash in the early 2000s.
The return of Ash Taylor to the Garden City will be a drawcard for the game in Toowoomba, also a traditional league stronghold.
While the use of Cbus Super Stadium for rugby sevens at the Games has forced the Titans to relocate two home games and spend most of the opening six weeks of the season on the road, they are not as badly affected as the Suns, who will be forced out of Metricon Stadium - the venue for the athletics and opening and closing ceremonies - for the opening 10 rounds of the season.
While a final decision is yet to be made on exactly where the Suns' "home" games will be held, it is likely they could be relocated to the Gabba early in the season, with matches during the Games period likely to be held in North Queensland.
NRL boss Todd Greenberg said the league had worked with the clubs in order to maximise the number of matches in regional areas in 2018.
"We have said for some time it was our strong desire to take more games to regional venues in 2018, and we're extremely happy to have been able to do that as part of the new schedule," Greenberg said.
"I want to thank the clubs involved for working with us on delivering this positive result for the game in regional areas but also the local councils, community groups and our government partners for being so enthusiastic about hosting Rugby League matches.
"It will be great to see so many people in regional areas being able to witness the best of Rugby League up close in 2018."