jazz tevaga
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 18: Jazz Tevaga of the Warriors and Marcelo Montoya of the Warriors celebrate victory with fans during the round six NRL match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the New Zealand Warriors at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, on April 18, 2021, in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

New Zealand is reportedly an early favourite to win the right to field the NRL's 18th team.

Adding a second franchise to New Zealand would help the NRL in their rivalry against Rugby and the All Blacks.

Trevor McKewen suggested via Business Desk that a team in either Christchurch or Wellington would be a valuable addition to the league, and believed they were in the box seat.

This report comes after the NRL flagged the possibility of an 18th club being added to the competition as early as 2025.

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - NOVEMBER 09: Roger Tuivasa-Sheck of the Kiwis charges forward during the Rugby League Test match between the New Zealand Kiwis and the Great Britain Rugby League Lions at Orangetheory Stadium on November 09, 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand. (Photo by Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo's statement following a new broadcast deal across the Tasman, he spoke about the league's desire to compete with the rival rugby code.

“We will invest aggressively in New Zealand pathways and go head-to-head with rugby union,” Abdo said.

He has also previously highlighted how adding an extra team in New Zealand would help expand the game when speaking to NRL.com earlier this year.

“An 18th team allows you to think about what we might want to do about expanding in New Zealand. Having two teams in New Zealand creates a tribalism and a new rivalry in New Zealand," he said.

GOSFORD, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 09: Ken Maumalo of the Warriors celebrates with his team during the round five NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the Manly Sea Eagles at Central Coast Stadium, on April 09, 2021, in Gosford, Australia. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

McKewen has also reported that other prolific figures are interested in the 18th team to be based in New Zealand. ARLC chair Peter V'landys is one, who is “quietly putting the building blocks in place in NZ to grow audiences and fans".

Rugby League has already started making strides in New Zealand. The new Kiwi broadcast deal with Sky New Zealand is being extended until the end of the 2027 season.

The deal, which comes into effect in 2023, will make selected marquee matches available on free-to-air television for the first time in New Zealand. That includes the State of Origin and selected Magic and ANZAC Round matches.

In May this year, former NZRL chairman Andrew Chalmers initiated a $30 million bid for a Wellington-based expansion team.

The proposed side would be based out of Sky Stadium in Wellington but would play regular matches in Christchurch. There was also a desire to create a women's team associated with the new franchise. The intention would be to possibly play in the NRLW competition in the future.

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The push for expanding the game in New Zealand is understandable. In the early 1970s, less than 10% of the competition's players were of Maori or Polynesian descent. Currently, that number is up to 45%. That rise has increased the talent pool of the competition and has helped create a better product for viewers.

When the Warriors were playing at the best, television viewership for their matches was similar to All Black audiences. Adding another team increases the likelihood of having a successful NZ based NRL team, therefore the number of eyes on NRL matches.

Despite significant interest, including from the NRL, there are other parties who aren't sold on the idea.

When asked on Big Sports Breakfast about the rumours of New Zealand being the favourites, The Daily Telegraph's Dean Ritchie didn't believe it was as much of a sure thing as others.

“It’s not something I’ve heard in Australia," Ritchie said.

“I don’t know, the last time I checked the NRL hadn’t even approved an 18th franchise — we haven’t even got the 17th franchise on the field just yet."

If there was to be the 18th team, however, Ritchie believes there are plenty of other options. There were many suitable locations in Australia that would be equally deserving of fielding a team.

GOSFORD, AUSTRALIA - MAY 02: Adam Pompey of the Warriors celebrates his try with team mates during the round eight NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the North Queensland Cowboys at Central Coast Stadium, on May 02, 2021, in Gosford, Australia. (Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

“If it comes down to 18 (teams) I’m not suggesting that it shouldn’t be over there — I think it’s certainly got merit. The Bears are the ones I would like to see back in, Perth is another one that would be an option and Wellington and Christchurch," he said.

“It’s certainly worth a debate, Wellington or Christchurch, the only concern I’ve got is that the Warriors have been just one level above a disaster since 1995.

“If that’s the prototype to bring in a new club, maybe there should be some long and careful debate.”