TUBUSEREIA, PAPUA NEW GUINEA - NOVEMBER 04: Young children play Rugby League on the beach in Tubusereia Village on November 4, 2017 in Tubusereia, Central Province, Papua New Guinea. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

With NRL expansion seemingly back on the agenda, every man and his dog has an opinion on which, and how many teams should get the all clear to join Australasia’s top tier of rugby league.

What is the right number? 1? 2? 4? Where should the new team/s be located? Perth? Adelaide? PNG? Pacific Islands? NZ? NSW Central Coast? QLD?

I would argue that two teams are probably the right amount to start with. I think you want to have a competition with an even amount of teams so as to avoid weekly byes like we had in the years following Souths’ readmission into the NRL, and preceding the admission of the Gold Coast Titans.

The question of “where” is a far more difficult one. The question of “where not” is slightly easier to answer. I’ll start with Adelaide. Rugby of either kind does not exist out there. The Adelaide Rams were an abysmal failure on and off the field. I’m not saying “never”. But putting a team in Adelaide will require a 20-30 year plan – something I believe the ARLC does not have the foresight to put together.

What about PNG and the Pacific Islands? It’d be nice. PNG love their league, and the game is growing in nations like Samoa, Tonga and especially Fiji. But let’s be fair dinkum here. These are essentially third world countries.

There are immense logistical issues related to these countries fielding NRL teams, including travel, attracting marquee players, and the possession of infrastructure that makes Brookvale Oval look world class.

Get these nations into our lower tiers by all means (PNG already have a QLD Cup team and Fiji look set to join the NSW Cup next year – Tonga and Samoa need to follow suit).

Giving their local players pathways to the NRL to will improve our player depth, making expansion easier, and will improve their national teams, which is good for the game as a whole. But as far as NRL representation goes, it’s an emphatic NO from me.

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That leaves us with New Zealand, NSW Central Coast, Perth, and QLD (could be Brisbane, Ipswich/Logan/South East or Central QLD). These are all viable options, and I would be happy to see any of these teams enter the NRL.

I won’t delve into which teams I would prefer because to me, it is much more about the “how” than the “where”.

What I mean is that I don’t want to see teams just brought in straight off the bat like the Melbourne Storm were.

Yes, the Melbourne Storm is a great rugby league success story. But I believe that they are the exception rather than the rule in that their success has come through a series of lucky coincidences rather than through good planning by the governing body.

I’m not saying that they haven’t been successful. If three (or five depending on who you ask) premierships in 20 years aren’t a success then I don’t know what is.

I’m certainly not saying that they don’t deserve their success. There are many people at the Melbourne Storm who have worked bloody hard for everything that they have achieved.

But there was no plan for Melbourne when they were brought in in 1998, other than “let’s give them a bunch of stars like Glenn Lazarus, Robbie Kearns and Brett Kimmorley and hope for the best”. Admittedly, it worked in that it resulted in their maiden premiership in 1999. But their success beyond that has been down to nothing but chance.

They happened to sign a coach who would turn out to be one of the greatest of all time (he’s now in his 16th season in charge of the Storm). He happened to bring the three cornerstones of their success in the last decade to the club as unknown 17-year-olds. And the club happened to have financial backing from News Ltd, without which they wouldn’t have survived the 2010 Salary Cap Scandal.

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All this resulted in tremendous success at the elite level. But let’s not forget that in two decades, Melbourne has produced two juniors – Mahe Fonua and Young Tonumaipea.

In other words, their success is top-down, not bottom-up. And the chances of this success being replicated in Perth, or New Zealand, with the same approach, are very slim in my opinion.

What I’m saying is that for me, if any of these teams want to play in the NRL, they need to have teams in the lower tiers first. And I don’t just mean the NSW and QLD Cups. I’m talking Harold Matthews, SG Ball, Jersey Flegg, and/or their QLD equivalents.

Obviously, this doesn’t apply to any QLD sides looking to join the NRL, or to the NSW Central Coast. These are rugby league heartland areas – they already have quality junior development systems in place.

But it is far less costly for the NRL to invest heavily in WA or NZ grass-roots than it is for them to artificially prop up the West Coast Pirates or the Wellington Whatevers in the NRL for years like the AFL is doing with GWS and the Gold Coast.

Get them playing in the U16s, U18s, U20s and reserve grade competitions in QLD and/or NSW with locally grown players. Allow them to create feeder relationships with existing NRL clubs so that their best juniors still have a path to the NRL.

If the NRL wants to expand to anywhere beyond QLD or NSW in the next decade, the above needs to happen right NOW. Otherwise, we’ll likely have a bunch of money-hole clubs that will not achieve anything unless they happen across champions like the Storm did.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Spot on Daniel Szabo, that is pretty much my view as well.

    I have been advocating Adelaide’s lack of Rugby League interest for years.
    Soccer is more popular in South Australia than League is!
    We can’t just rely on a Geographical Region as the sole basis for inclusion.

    A possible Central Coast team is great in theory and they do have the Juniors to back them up but their proximity being way too close to Newcastle and also Manly, to me makes them untenable.
    I doubt that they have the Business Financial Structure to fully fund such a venture.
    The local Central Coast Leagues Club would need to be a full partner in any venture.

    I support 100% new clubs in Queensland.
    * The Broncos base is North of the city at Red Hill which is only a 7-minute drive to Suncorp Stadium.
    * Ipswich is in the West, a must for inclusion
    * Maybe a 3rd Brisbane team most likely in the East or South East at say Souths Sunnybank as an example!

    * Central Queensland Geographically and Juniors wise may be a good idea.
    The issue will be Rockhampton, Mackay or Gladstone?
    is a must one day, they have Agriculture, Mining and Cattle Industry to support them financially and I am sure the QLD Government would chip in for a new Stadium.
    Plenty of Juniors.

    * Sunshine Coast at Stockland Park Bokarina,
    There is plenty of lands there to build a good size boutique Stadium.
    It is 100km North of Brisbane with a population of 303,389,
    The Sunshine Coast economy is one of the largest regional economies in Australia, with a current Gross Regional Product of more than A$16 billion and growing at 4.5% annually.

    SYDNEY is the key though, with 8 and a half clubs we probably have 2 or maybe even 3 clubs too many.

    I am not going to type on here and to dictate on which clubs should be in or to relocate as a Souths Member and True Fan my club has been through that crap…we Died, we fought hard to get back in, we survived only just… and then with Russell’s involvement we eventually won it all.
    Such true fighting abilities, such fine character.

    I wouldn’t wish that on any fan of the game in Sydney, not even the Rorters fans.

    • I agree in what you are saying.The trouble is in all of this is Sydney has too many teams.As iv stated in previous posts something has to give.Im 45yrs old i was born and bred in Parramatta as was all my family so im pretty sure id class myself as a die hard,if any time growing up the thought ever entered my mind(never did) to support another team i would be dead.In saying that i also love league,played the game from the age of 4 into my 30s so as much as i love Parra i love footy.I can see that Parra merging long term if there future and the only team i could see it working with is the bulldogs.Penrith are to big an area in there own right as is wests out campbelltown,Saints has already merged.Some sydney clubs have too look at merging,relocate or die.Obvious choice to relocate is the Roosters to the coast,they taking there juniors anyway plus play games there already.Souths are sydney they cannot go.So we have Manly and Sharks,now think about what area would you be prepared to loose if it came to it as soon as one is relocated the fan base dies.Id say Sharks.AFL will be all over either area in a heart beat so id say let the Sharks relocate to Perth and play 3 games a season against syd teams still in the shire and hope that the fans are true and die hard.As for Manly league in sydney needs someone to hate and they just do it to well

      • Parra needs to pack up and head to Perth. They have not been any good since 1986. 32 years on fast forward to last week 54-0. Still cant score a point. Total crap time to move them out. Let the Roosters relocate to Parramatta and Let the Roosters show the people of Parra how to do it right🤣👍✔

  2. Well said 3Fourskins. Being a Roosters fan I do not want South’s out of the comp either. We love to hate each other and the rivalry is to precious for these two foundation clubs to be eliminated. It is the only history the NRL own from its roots of 1908.

    In fact I don’t see the reason for any Sydney Clubs to be merged or shafted anywhere now or in the future. How many Melbourne teams are in the AFL? 9 I think, yet they are the survivors with their competition expanded all over Australia with 9 teams and 10 if you count Geelong.

    My tip is a Perth and a Brisbane or close to Brisbane team expansion.

    • See WoodChook this is the problem,comparing league to AFL and not moving forward.League needs to expand Afl doesnt need to, all they need to do is hold there market.How can you honestly believe that the roosters are fine how they are.Why do they play games in Gosford often getting there bettrer crowds?why do they need CC juniors?Sorry mate but if the Roosters are so strong why is this the case?We wont even start on the so called salary cap.The NRL has to do something about the situation in sydney if they are going to expand.Unless Roosters or Souths relocate or merge i cant see how they can move forward.How does it make sense that you can be in your car for 30 minutes an drive thru souths,roosters,sharks and saints heartland?Anyway once Uncle Nic retires at the end of the year you dont think that the NRL may change there tune towards the mighty Rorters a lil?

      • ParraMatt the AFL only had 12 Melbourne teams before it started its campaign to expand. When it finished expanding it still has 10 of the original 12 Melbourne teams. The NRL did expand and would of been successful 20yrs ago only for all the foolish teams who broke away into the super league. Had that war not of happened the NRL would of expanded all over Australia and still had the the Magpies, Tigers, Steelers, Bears, and Crushers. The NRL would be looking at expansion of a 2nd division international competition involving New Guinea, South Pacific Islands and probably a Darwin team at this point in time had Canberra, Brisbane, Canterbury, Penrith, Cronulla the Warriors and all those other trouble making back stabbing teams did not start the rot. Sydney is a bigger city than Melbourne so for Sydney to only have nine teams is viable. You must remember ParraMatt the NRL have no intention to amalgamate or relocate teams, that is in your mind and your agenda. The NRL want to expand, that is what they will do. Are you sure your not a Jesuit league supporter with a hidden agenda? You did say you are a Parra fan, that means you are not a supporter of that Super League Garbage? However they way you express your self, shows you are a super league supporter.

  3. Agree – Brisbane or the immediate surrounds could handle another team easily. I’m just not a fan of sticking a team in a town or region that doesn’t have a junior comp. The population in NSW – particularly Sydney is growing – but participation levels and crowds are declining. I hear all the time about junior comps in regional QLD struggling to get kids to play. If the game can’t be developed in its heartland areas – how it is supposed to develop in areas that think Dally Messenger is a social media app?

  4. Before Expanding the ARL Commission needs to sort out the funding and pathway systems for juniors.

    It is in a real mess as some clubs who are “developing” clubs spend literally millions of dollars every year just to have these local kids pinched by the wealthier clubs whom hardly spend anything on their Juniors.
    The System is just not fair at all.

    The AFL and NRL in regards to Juniors are like chalk and cheese.

    The AFL is Centralised and the Junior System is totally run and funded by the governing body, you can be born in Darwin or Brisbane yet debut for Carlton or Geelong.

    The Draft System was approved by the clubs, I am not sure what year but I will find out…

    The tradeoff is that the individual clubs are now not burdened financially for developing their own juniors.

    The AFL Commission organise the finances through their state system.

    The Draft then spreads the talent, of course, the AFL DRAFT System is unique and unlike the Draft Systems used in the USA where you have to go where you are told to go.

    In the AFL if a player is Draft pick Number 3 and it is Collingwood’s turn to pick and that player wants to go to Perth then the two clubs do a deal and exchange pick’s so that Perth can have that player but Collingwood might get Perth’s next 2 picks and so on!
    For an example.

    The Draft system in the 1991 NSWRL competition failed because we were using a combination of the American Draft System and also a free for all where the players put a value on themselves and not the Governing body!
    Terry Hill was forced to go to Easts but he wanted to go to the Magpies so he took the NSWRL to court and won.

    ***********************************
    In Sydney, fewer kids are playing the game every year especially in the North, South and East of Sydney but out West, in Parramatta, Penrith and Blacktown the Juniors are thriving.

    The ARLC is trying to hide this fact by counting Touch Footy, OZ Tag and also Female participation as a districts juniors in the hope that smaller kids who play touch may eventually play tackle when they develop but many prefer to play with their I Pads and PlayStations!

    This is what I am talking about!
    https://www.nswrl.com.au/news/2018/03/23/registrations-in-sydney-metro-up-10-per-cent/

    **************************************
    The ARLC has made a good start by demoting the NYC back to the State Run Jersey Flegg Competition and the Queensland equivalent.

    We still have far too many Sydney based ISC teams.
    We need more rural clubs in our largest Country cities.
    Wagga Wagga, Bourke, Tamworth, Coffs Harbour, Mudgee, Nowra… for example!

    We have 9 out of the 12 clubs in Sydney.
    Auckland
    Newcastle
    Wyong.
    The Raiders are using Mt Pritchard, a Parramatta Junior club.

    I believe eventually the NRL will bring in an AFL style Draft System…
    It is inevitable if the League wants to expand to new regions!
    Especially Perth!

    • Exactly.Its ok for some clubs screem from there roof that they are doin ok financialy when they put nothing into the system but you have certain clubs propping up huge junior areas and get squat for it

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