An in-depth look at “Australian sports train wreck”: Building Titans review
The Gold Coast Titans, the newest club to join the National Rugby League (NRL) has teamed up with award winning Australian-Ghanaian creative Matthew Adekponya to produce a four-part documentary called Building Titans. Released on Fox League and Kayo Sports in March of 2021, the documentary promised an “honest look at the history of the club, with unprecedented access from the playing group” and, personally, I thought it delivered on all fronts.
The Gold Coast Titans joined the NRL in 2007 and weren’t immediately successful at NRL level, and it’s been slim pickings at best up until this point. They finished one game short of a grand final in 2010, but other than that, they haven’t had any major success stories, which was a major part of the downfall of their predecessor clubs which went under three different names from 1988 before folding in 1998.
So, a struggling club, with a history of very little success produces a documentary about the way in which the club is building in the lead-up to the 2021 NRL season. Why should anyone outside of fans of the club care about what the Titans are doing in the documentary?
BUILDING TITANS/ FOX LEAGUE PREMIERE 💪
FOUR-PART DOCUMENTARY SERIES 📺
🗓 MONDAY MARCH 8
— Fox League (@FOXNRL) February 20, 2021
Well for one, they finished the 2020 season in 9th and on the cusp of a final’s appearance while playing some good footy. Add to this, some big name signings, and the club seems primed for a big 2021.
And two, because it’s an unexpectedly entertaining look at the club, and it’s an insight into the inner workings of a variety of aspects of the club to which no other NRL club has showcased to the public in such a way before.
Now I’ll admit, I am a fan of the Titans, so I was always going to watch the documentary series at some point. But I was surprised at the access and depth of the series as well as just how entertaining it was. Now don’t get me wrong, it doesn’t stand up to some of the better sports documentaries going around, such as Netflix’s The Last Dance or Amazon Prime’s All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur. But I don’t think anyone would really have expected it to as it only goes for just over an hour and a half. It does feature all the things you would expect though. Interviews with the CEO, the Coach, the media, the players, as well some other people around the club who have impacts on either player development or club decisions or both.
Each episode has a different area of focus meaning that the people involved in each episode vary, meaning you aren’t hearing the same opinions spouted by the same people all the time.
Episode one focuses on the history of the club and the fact that they have hit what they consider to be a turning point and are now on the way up. The Courier Mails Chief Rugby League reporter, Peter Badel, let’s fly his opinions on the club when they were struggling, referring to it the club of “Australian sports’ train wreck,” but does end it on a more positive note. The incites offered by Badel as well as the opinions of various rugby league personalities are tough listening for any Titans fans, but the documentary makes the brave choice and refuses to shy away from the negative opinions of many pundits.
Episode two takes a look at the clubs’ recruitment in both players and officials, namely the clubs’ marquee player signings David Fifita and Tino Fa’asuamaleuai, as well as the clubs signing of NRL immortal Mal Meninga as Head of Performance and Culture. The crew follows around Fifita as he goes about his media responsibilities for the club and films him whilst traveling to commitments. They do a similar thing with the Tino where he takes them to his tiny hometown of Widgee in Queensland. This creates a feeling of connection with the players that viewers will never have experienced before.
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Episode three showcases the fringe players in the squad and the NRL’s use of the train-and-trial system. This system gives players the opportunity to train alongside an NRL club’s top 30 to try and earn a deal. One example of a success story for this kind of deal is front rower Jaimin Jolliffe.
Episode four is the final part of the series and takes fans inside a two-day intensive camp in the pre-season of the 2021 season. It also features interviews with some of the clubs’ stars in their downtime over the off-season.
A range of up-close and personal interviews with players helps bring these fans within the club’s inner sanctum and really helps to build a connection with the playing group. As a fan of the club, this experience is incredible as it makes me feel even more invested in playing group and the success of certain individual players.
Whilst the Titans are not the only club to produce a piece of content like this, with fellow NRL side, the Penrith Panthers produced a series on their side on their YouTube channel, the Titans are the first to go into this level of depth and have clearly put plenty of effort into the production.
From a narrative standpoint, everything covered in the documentary flows nicely together throughout the episodes and ties into the overall story that the club is trying to tell. This makes for an entertaining watch for any rugby league fans and fans of the club that is definitely worth a watch, and it’s something I would love to see other clubs do to really get the fans invested.