IF you want the ‘elevator pitch’ on what is Sports Gold Coast, then you had to be a fly on the wall recently at McLaughlin’s Lawyers’ impressive rooftop entertainment area.
Overlooking the Nerang River and some of the Good Coast’s most expensive real estate you quickly understood Geoff Smith’s dream.
The chairman of Sports Gold Coast (SGC) was surrounded by local rugby union officials, representatives of some of the city’s most influential and successful business brands, a handful of academia (eg Bond Uni) and some government representatives.
The gathering for cocktails was officially a thank-you to several local businesses who have come on board to assist a re-invigorated Gold Coast and District Rugby Union (GCDRU).
For Geoff Smith – and the new chairman of the GCDRU Kim Bending – it was so much more. It is at the core of why Smith formed SGC.
For decades local rugby union has lurched from one financial mire to another. The fallout from this has been costly – numerous lost opportunities at all levels, from the most basic grassroots club level through to the loss of the International Sevens tournament.
But rugby’s woes are far from an uncommon scenario. The Gold Coast has seen numerous cases of local sporting endeavours wilt on the vine.
Enter Sports Gold Coast, whose mantra is simple: Act as a conduit between local groups – sport, business, government, education facilities, etc – to produce a better outcome for local sport.
The recent gathering at McLaughlin’s was that in action.
“Sports Gold Coast is a great ally for us,” says Bending, who has been a positive force on the local rugby scene for many years.
“The timing is perfect. The new board of Gold Coast rugby has only recently been formed and we have already been in discussions with Geoff. He opens up a whole new dimension for us. And the blue print is already there in front of us.”
The blueprint Bending is referring to is Gold Coast United, the soccer entity set up by SGC that is now a reality in the Queensland Premier League.
Local rugby doesn’t have to re-invent the wheel to find solutions. Many are right there in the GC United model – structures, governance, funding.
Bending says he gets ‘shivers’ when he allows himself to think of the potential that a marriage between rugby and Sports Gold Coast will bring.
Last year SGC invested $70,000 in Bond Uni’s women’s sevens campaign. Now they will not only continue the push for more opportunities for female rugby players on the Gold Coast, but will work with the GCDRU to assist all facets of the code.
“Gatherings like the one at McLaughlin’s (who are a SGC sponsor) is where we play a crucial role,” says Smith.
“We help bring the parties together in a relaxed atmosphere. Some of the people Sports Gold Coast brought on that night are pretty high level corporate entities who have a real passion for rugby union. They genuinely want to help. However instead of a few thousand dollars going to one particular club you may end up with tens of thousands of dollars going across the entire code.
“Sports Gold Coast wants to assist in the development, promotion and support of rugby union at all levels on the Gold Coast. We are not just focused on the upper levels. The grassroots is where it all starts and we will be looking at supporting that level as much as any.”
Smith said there were so many similarities with the Gold Coast United soccer model.
“Pathways in sport are very important,” he said.
“GC United is a whole-of-city approach that has the welcome mat out to all clubs, all players. And it provides a crucial link from clubland to the A-League and W-League.
“We hope to help to provide the same for rugby on the Gold Coast with assistance especially for the clubs’ representative team, the Cyclones.”
Both Smith and Bending said the excitement and potential around women’s sevens on the Gold Coast was incredible.
“We are about to launch our own local women’s sevens competition,” said Bending. “We already have a lot of players keen to be part of that. We are fortunate to have both Griffith and Bond universities heavily involved in local rugby.”
GEOFF SMITH – SPORTS GOLD COAST CHAIRMAN
Smith said SGC would continue to support Bond’s women’s sevens program, engage in talks with Griffith Uni and also strive to bring more international rugby events to the Gold Coast.
“The Wallabies play Argentina right here at Cbus Stadium on September 15. We have to pack out the venue,” he said.
“All year we will be working towards that – using our network, getting people aware and involved.
“The Wallabies will be in region for two Tests. They will clash with South Africa at Suncorp on September 8. We are already in talks with the Wallabies and the Gold Coast City Council to base their training camp across those two weeks here on the Gold Coast and I am quietly confident that will happen.
“These are the opportunities Sports Gold Coast can assist with.”
Bending said the appearance of Sports Gold Coast had dove-tailed into his vision of offering a rugby brand that was very appealing to Gold Coast business houses.
“We have been far too reclusive for too long,” he said. “But without the assistance of corporate Gold Coast the change we need won’t happen.
“However with what I have seen and heard overt the past six months … change is about to happen.”