Although the NRL expansion recently hit a snag, with plans to place another team in Queensland suspended amid COVID-19 uncertainty, prospective club, the Brisbane Firehawks, have secured a five-year-deal with one of rugby league's biggest football nurseries.
According to Peter Badel of News Corp, the Firehawks have come to a five-year agreement with the Central Queensland Capras.
Subject to the Firehawks clinching an NRL licence, the Capras will supply the prospective NRL club with some of the best young talent in Queensland Rugby League.
Grassroot coup! Did the @BrisFirehawks seal their spot as the #NRL 17th team with this huge powerplay? @badel_cmail https://t.co/x8QjcSvv7r pic.twitter.com/lmWEXQ2d2w
— Courier Mail Sport (@cmail_sport) August 10, 2021
ARLC chairman Peter V'landys told the media late last month that plans to expand had been put on hold, however, he would still like to see the addition happen within 12 months of the original date, putting us on track for an expanded league by 2024.
“The analysis of expansion has stopped for the moment,” he explained.
“I have said to the clubs that the work on expansion has stopped for the moment, but the work will recommence on it.”
The Firehawks recent deal with the Capras puts them in healthy stead as they challenge for the Brisbane expansion against rival clubs the Brisbane Jets and the Redcliffe-backed Dolphins.
Ranked No.1 by the QRL, the Central Queensland catchment houses more than 8,000 registered players, a former of which being previous Central Queensland Capra and now Melbourne Storm superstar Cameron Munster.
While the deal is still in its infancy, there's expectations that the Firehawks will hold both NRL premiership games and trials in the Central Queensland region and construct two rugby league academies if they win the bid.
“It’s great to establish links with the Capras,” bid consultant for the Firehawks Brent Richardson said.
“Central Queensland has a massive catchment, they are up there in terms of playing numbers with Penrith, there is so much untapped talent in that region.
“Obviously the arrangement is contingent upon us getting an NRL licence, but we are already building Academies in Rockhampton and Gladstone."
Richardson also believes that catchments like the one that exists in Central Queensland provide enough evidence that the NRL has a large enough talent pool to justify 17 teams.
“It’s nonsense to say there isn’t enough talent for 17 teams,” he said.
“Central Queensland is proof there is plenty of talent to sustain a 17th NRL team. They are a huge strength for rugby league.
“It‘s a goldmine for the NRL and the local council is really supportive. They are looking to turn Browne Park in Rockhampton to make it into a 15,000-seat stadium.
“It‘s a no-brainer for the NRL to expand, it’s not just about having another team for television, it’s about the growth of rugby league in Queensland and attacking the AFL in the west of Brisbane.”