NINE players taking to the field in the Titans’ opening match of the NRL season this weekend sum up what the Gold Coast side has become – “a club with great heart”.

And it’s that sense of community that has positioned the Gold Coast Titans to become a club driven to give local footy stars a crack at the big time.

In their Round 1 clash tomorrow against the Canberra Raiders, the Titans have named a squad that includes nine players who grew up less than an hour’s drive from their home field at Robina.

Jai Arrow, Moeaki Fotuaika, Jarrod Wallace, Ryan James, Kevin Proctor, Tyrone Roberts, Brian Kelly, Michael Gordon and AJ Brimson comprise that nine among the game-day team of 17 players – 13 on the field and four on the bench.

Titans executive chairman Dennis Watt said tomorrow’s line-up was a clear message for juniors wanting to make it into the NRL.

“You can make it from here, you can stay home on the Gold Coast and Northern Rivers area and fulfil your dreams to become an NRL player without having to go to Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne,” Mr Watt said.

“To (Titans coach) Garth Brennan’s credit, it’s been a real focus since he’s taken on the coaching role and it has been reinforced further under the new ownership.

“We’ve got a pretty extraordinary concentration of local players. It’s a tremendous message to send out to local juniors.”

Mr Watt said the money that had been saved in a new stadium deal with the State Government was being funnelled directly into junior development.

“We brokered that new deal with the State Government and Stadiums Queensland for the hire of Cbus Stadium, so we immediately took those savings and added considerable extra investment and placed it in the development of our junior pathways,’’ he said.

“Whether it’s boys or girls … part of the ethos of the club is to help develop rugby league throughout the entire region.”

He said local fans had the opportunity to watch kids they had followed in juniors playing in the NRL.

“There is a real joy in watching young talent come through the system,’’ he said. “Fans can feel like part of the journey. It’s just great to see, quite frankly.

“It’s a club with great heart and I think the community can see that.”

Titans captain Ryan James grew up in the Northern Rivers and played his junior footy with the Bilambil Jets.

He said it showed the character and the culture of the Titans club that so many locals were in the team.

“It’s great the club is at the stage where we can produce local talent and try to retain them, rather than losing them here, there and everywhere,” James said.

“We’ve got enough talent here on the Gold Coast to have a good team.

“It’s good that players are seeing a future here. With all the changes that have happened during the past two to three years, it’s really exciting for the club because we haven’t really had the program to really develop these local juniors.”