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Joel Gould and Murray Wenzel

Dimma and Des: Coast coaches tackle Glitter Strip curse

Title-winning coaches Damien Hardwick and Des Hasler will begin life on the Gold Coast on Saturday. (Dave Hunt / Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

Forget about the code wars. 

Bunkered down in the same Gold Coast apartment complex, two of the country's best-credentialed coaches have joined forces on a quest for elusive, sustained AFL and NRL success on the Glitter Strip.

Three-time AFL premiership coach Damien Hardwick will begin life at the Suns' helm, against his former club Richmond, at a packed house in Carrara on Saturday.

Less than an hour after the full-time horn sounds, dual NRL premiership-winning mentor Des Hasler - living in the same building as Hardwick - will coach the Titans against St George Illawarra down the road at Robina for the first time.

"He's a great man, Des; a really smart coach," Hardwick told AAP, joking that Hasler owned the penthouse suite.

"We don't see each other that often though, because we're both early risers. I leave home at 5am, I think he leaves home at 4.30.

"Both clubs have been starved of success and we're sitting here trying to forge a path forward, so the more we can work together in our headspace is a good thing."

The Titans have not won an NRL finals match since 2010 and the Suns have never finished higher than 12th in 13 seasons of AFL existence.

But their arrivals have brought renewed hope and immediate tangible change,  both men ordering strategic office alterations as soon as they entered their respective HQs.

Gold Coast rugby league product and 2003 premiership winner Scott Sattler has already been won over by Hasler.

Des Hasler
Des Hasler has already impressed in his efforts to turn around the Titans.

"The signing of Des could be the best ever made by any franchise since 1988," Sattler told AAP.

"I went to the Titans season launch and I walked out of there thinking, 'he has made me believe'. 

"I wasn't planning on going to the game against the Dragons on Saturday night but I am now … because of Des. I love the Titans. I want them to be successful."

Sattler understands the rise and fall of every Gold Coast top level league franchise because he was involved with all of them.

He held a junior scholarship with Tweed Heads-Gold Coast Giants in the late 1980s, the inaugural franchise launched by a consortium headed by his late father John Sattler. 

He played under 21s and first grade for Tweed Heads Seagulls from 1990-1993, first grade for the Gold Coast Chargers in 1997-1998 and was the Titans inaugural general manager of football in 2007.

Scott Sattler
Scott Sattler won an NRL title with Penrith in 2003 but has Gold Coast in his veins.

He said the rush to "get a club together inside three months" after a 1987 consortium called The Internationals fell over meant there were no players on the market.

"It started off behind the eight-ball ... and unfortunately a pattern, that followed through the Seagulls and Chargers, of signing older experienced players was the priority over cultivating a really good group of juniors that could become 150 or 200-game players," Sattler said.

"It took losing the licence at the end of 1998 to realise if they got it back that it had to be a completely different focus."

In 2007 the Titans signed quality local juniors like David Mead and Ryan James and stars who had previous connections to the Gold Coast like Mat Rogers and Preston Campbell.

Preston Campbell, Scott Sattler
Preston Campbell (2nd l) was a key Titans signing when Scott Sattler (far r) was football manager.

Unfortunately, Sattler said they "lost their way and lost the stranglehold they had on the community" when financial issues surrounding the white elephant Centre of Excellence became a distraction away from the main game.

Now, under new owners Darryl Kelly and Rebecca Frizelle, the Titans have the right mix in their squad for Hasler to work with.

"He's got a great good group of young players, 100 and 150-gamers and veterans like Kieran Foran … a really good sprinkle," Sattler said.

"Physically they can compete with Penrith but in the past the Titans have allowed tough moments of a game to overwhelm them. Des will give them that balance of when to be psychologically tough and when to be physically brilliant."

AFL expansion darlings Gold Coast have been blessed with draft picks and compensation in the hope of fast-tracking success since their introduction in 2011.

But the pattern, not helped by below-par facilities in their infancy, has repeated and their top talent has headed south. 

Steven May, Tom Lynch and Dion Prestia all won premierships for Melbourne-based rivals and only two men - Sam Day and David Swallow - remain on the list as inaugural Suns.

In 2014 and sitting eighth with an 8-6 record, Gary Ablett hurt his shoulder and they won just once more that season.

may ablett
Steven May (left) and Gary Ablett both left without playing finals for the Suns.

Things began to improve under previous coach Stuart Dew, the side flirting with finals at various points in the last two seasons with a steady stream of quality Queensland-bred talent funnelling into the squad. 

But Dew was axed last year when another mid-tier finish looked inevitable, despite the likes of Matt Rowell, Noah Anderson and Jack Lukosius all signing long-term deals.

Ben King recently joined them, but only until the end of 2026 in somewhat of a homework assignment for Hardwick.

"It will come down to whether we can help them achieve their ambitions," Suns chief executive Mark Evans told AAP of the task to avoid another generation of talent leaving the nest.

"In three-to-five years, we need to be fighting towards the top of the ladder and we want a premiership in the Hardwick era."

Evans and new chairman Bob East last year headed to Italy to woo Hardwick, who had abruptly left his post mid-season at Richmond, and secure him on a six-year deal.

"We hadn't always been clear with ourselves and the community about our ambitions," said Evans, who was previously the football operations boss at Hawthorn and the AFL.

"Sometimes we were almost pleading for patience.

"Now we're quite comfortable saying, "We're here to win premierships and take the fans along with us'.

"So when Bob and I met with Damien, in Italy of all places, the thing we loved was the words that came out of his mouth married with those things."

Evans met Hardwick when he transitioned from dual premiership player to assistant coach at the Hawks in 2005. 

"He's very clear about what he wants, has incredibly high standards but they're backed up with a care for the club and its people," Evans explained.

"But overwhelmingly there is this fierce ambition for success.

"And what I see of Des, some of those traits are exactly the same and, living in the same apartment building, you'd think that that was planned."

The Suns are targeting a premiership during the Damien Hardwick era.

Hardwick has settled quickly in Queensland and insists there is room for both codes to flourish on the Coast.

"I just love sport in general," he said.

"One of the great things, when I look at American sports, is their cities support all their teams. We should be the same."

Sattler, who lives on the Gold Coast, said the public would get behind both teams on one condition.

"It is crap when people say that sporting teams don't work on the Gold Coast because everyone is transient and there's too much to do," Sattler said.

"All you have got to do is win. When these teams do they will become the hottest tickets in town.

"If the Suns and Titans are winning together I guarantee you the Gold Coast community will be going to both." 

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