Titans founder Michael Searle with his father, Tom Searle.
Titans founder Michael Searle with his father, Tom Searle.

League mourns Titans founding father

THE Gold Coast rugby league community is in mourning following the death of one of the region's most influential figures and a founding father of the Titans.

Tom Searle died on Monday in Sydney aged 73 following a year-long battle with brain cancer.

Searle died on the same day the NRL announced it had raised $2.55 million from the annual Beanies For Brain Cancer Round.

The father of Titans founder Michael Searle, Tom played a part in all incarnations of professional rugby league teams on the Gold Coast dating back to the Seagulls in the 1970s.

He was a confidant for Michael as the Titans were awarded an NRL licence from 2007 and spotted the likes of Ryan James, Kevin Gordon, David Mead and Matt Srama as the club's junior recruiter.

Foundation Titans coach John Cartwright said Tom Searle played a huge role in the creation of the club and Gold Coast league.

Tom Searle has died, aged 73.
Tom Searle has died, aged 73.

I was new to the area and to see how well he was respected by everyone in the game at all levels - from players to parents to officials - he was such a popular bloke," a shattered Cartwright said.

"I became great friends with Tommy and spent a lot of time with him, even after our time at the Titans finished.

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"There are a lot of guys running around that have earned a living out of football on the back of Tommy's work in recruitment at a lot of different Gold Coast franchises.

"He was not only very good at what he did, he was one of my very best friends.

"I went and saw him yesterday. I was very lucky that he was in hospital in Sydney, I just finished work and drove up to the hospital to say my farewells to him.

"He didn't miss anything over the past year. He fought it very hard and right until the end."

Searle, a NSW Country representative in his playing days, coached the Tweed Heads Seagulls to a grand final in 1972, only to be beaten by a Gold Coast Tigers outfit boasting Steve Rogers in the centres.

He remained attached to the Seagulls throughout his later years, frequenting Piggabeen and even acting as a ground announcer and scoreboard attendant during Intrust Super Cup games.

Queensland Origin legend Chris "Choppy" Close met Searle when he joined the Gold Coast Giants in 1988 and reunited at the Titans two decades later.

"I played in the Gold Coast competition when I grew up and Tommy was always kicking around in that area - you got to know who Tom Searle was," Close said.

"He was a bloody good footballer and well respected in that area.

"When I came to the Gold Coast Giants to play in 1988 he was a director on the board.

Inaugural Titans coach John Cartwright was great mates with Tom Searle. Picture: Wesley Monts
Inaugural Titans coach John Cartwright was great mates with Tom Searle. Picture: Wesley Monts

"Tommy understood the game and how it was set up on the Gold Coast because he was part of it for such a long time.

"He was a good player and became a good coach and mentor for those young guys on the Gold Coast.

"He was pivotal in making sure young guys made the transition from the bush to the beach.

"He was a genuinely honest fella. You could take to the bank anything he told you. He had no shit in him and wasn't a boaster.

"He was an honest bloke with rugby league and people in his heart."

Close said Michael would have struggled to get the Titans into the NRL without the support of his father.

"Without his support and someone he could trust, it would have been a tougher job for Michael to get it off the ground," Close said.

"To have his dad there with so much knowledge of the local area and league was a great combination.

"Michael relied on his father for advice and information in areas that were probably beyond his years."

The Titans may look to honour Searle when they face the Broncos on Saturday at Suncorp Stadium.