The Romano Group Tweed Heads Seagulls have launched an ambitious, but realistic five-year strategic plan targeting stability and success in the football area, home-ground development and greater interaction with the local community.
Newly appointed consultant James Owen is working alongside CEO Scott Clark to provide an achievable blueprint for the Seagulls, which includes a Piggabeen Sports Complex upgrade and increased resources being provided to the football department as the state leagues take on new emphasis from next season with the NRL discontinuing the Under 20s competition which has been in operation since 2008.
This comes on the heels of the recent appointment of coach Ben Woolf, the former Gold Coast Titans Under 20s mentor, for next season and the appointment of former Cronulla and Manly NRL player Paul Stephenson to a sponsorship and player well-being role and Ezra Howe (snr) to a newly created development and player pathways position.
The staff expansion coincides with NRL and QRL providing new guidelines and extended funding and resources to clubs in the Queensland and NSW Intrust Super Cup feeder competitions.
Stephenson, who played 55 NRL games for Manly and Cronulla and spent several seasons with Ipswich and the Seagulls at Queensland Cup level, has extensive business experience.
Howe, whose son played A Grade for the Seagulls in 2017, comes highly qualified after seven years with the Canberra Raiders in development. He was also their Under 20s assistant coach and coach of New Zealand’s Under 18s side.
Clark, Woolf, Howe and Stephenson provide the club with extensive experience in the NRL club system.
Clark has been working for months, alongside Tweed Shire councilor Owen, on forging a detailed plan to make the Seagulls – who have played in the finals only once in the past five seasons, to become more financial, viable and competitive on the field after finishing 2017 just off the bottom of the ladder.
“We need to be more than just surviving,” said Clark, the former Titans general manager of football.
“There's always been the attitude that we have punched above our weight, but we aim to be a team that will be competitive every year.
“Part of that is upgrading facilities, creating a more professional environment which includes improved facilities, and attracting good young players looking for a pathway to the NRL now that the NRL-run National Youth League has been abolished.
“NRL clubs will have to operate with squads of 36 players, so outside of those players, the best pathway to the NRL will be the NSW and Queensland Cups, so there's a lot more focus on getting our structure right.”
Plans for Piggabeen include carpark improvements, new gym, dressing rooms and seating, plus upgrades to fencing and floodlights.
Piggabeen Complex upgrade: artist impression
Greater commercial income and community engagement is also a priority.
The Gulls plan to launch a membership program which aims to see a 20% membership increase year on year to 2022, an increase in crowd averages by 15% annually, sponsorship growth and improved community engagement, which includes a closer relationship with the licensed club’s members.
“We want to get more people to games, more locals interested in our performances and activities and wanting to become members,” Clark said.
Even the match day experience will be enhanced with plans to provide free buses from the Seagulls club to games at Piggabeen and featuring food trucks and entertainment at home matches.
It’s all part of, stage by stage, making the Seagulls a more engaging, professional and viable club by 2022.
“It's about community engagement. We want Seagulls to be something that the Tweed community is proud of," Owen said.
“To do that, we needed to show we are a serious organisation, so a strategy that looks three to five years into the future, covering all areas, was important."
The Seagulls are targeting $500,000 in grants from Tweed Shire Council, local members, and state and federal governments to initiate the plans.
Stage one includes a replacement of current fencing, moving the field slightly to the east, providing fencing on the eastern side and new goal posts before next season.
A new well-equipped gym is the main target for 2019, with new seating and other improvements on the western side to give it more a feel of a grandstand next priority.