WOLLONGONG, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 23: Kalyn Ponga of the Knights looks to pass during the NRL trail match between the St George Illawarra Dragons and the Newcastle Knights at WIN Stadium on February 23, 2019 in Wollongong, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

The concept of adding a 17th side to the NRL is gaining serious momentum, with ARL boss Peter V'landys stating a decision will be made by June this year that could see a new Brisbane side enter the league by 2023, per The Sydney Morning Herald.

The Brisbane Bombers, Redcliffe Dolphins, Brisbane Firehawks and Ipswich are all in strong contention to gain the 17th license for the NRL and the first since the Gold Coast Titans in 2007.

The NRL will need to set aside $12 million to distribute to the new club, with the league likely to save close to $50 million following on from a 25 per cent job cut last year.

V'landys and NRL boss Andrew Abdo will also need to secure a free-to-air contract past the 2022 season and a business model from senior strategic projects manager Lachlan Smith in the next three months prior to making a final decision.

Speaking to The Herald, V'landys expressed his confidence in having a new side enter the NRL by 2023.

“It’s very realistic to say that we’ll have a second team in Brisbane in 2023,” V’landys said.

“From what I’ve seen and the presentations that have been given to me, they are well advanced. If I said 2022 they’d be ready. They’ve been doing work for years. There’s no reason why we can’t be up and running in 2023.

“The one thing that I am impressed with is how advanced these bids are. They are not mucking around. They are serious. If we came to a decision in June this year, that would give them a year and a half. It’s plenty of time. If it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen mid-this year.

“I’m not going to do it if it’s going to hurt the game. It’s got to benefit the game. To benefit the game, it can’t cannibalise the Titans and Broncos, and I don’t think it will, just like how Parramatta doesn’t cannibalise Penrith.
"One of the good things is that we still haven’t signed our free-to-air deal. We insured ourselves with our pay TV deal. The cream is going to be the free-to-air deal. For 2023, we need to have all our strategies in place soon for our free-to-air deal.”
V'landys added that while expansion is a key element for the game, there are several factors the NRL is also strongly considering.
"There are five big issues on the commission's timetable at the moment," V'landys said.
"In no particular order, one is concussion and the welfare of the player. Two is going back to three grades. Three is the integrity of the game. Four is expansion in Brisbane. And five goes hand in hand with expansion and that is participation.

"Participation to us is everything. One of the reasons we want the team in Brisbane is because of participation.

"I want to expand because of participation. We've been very lucky in my view to able to procure Kate Jones as a board member because she's been inspirational in participation. She's actually been made chair of a committee to look at participation.

"What she wants to do is have a presence in the education departments. One of the things that happens in primary schools now, it's mainly female teachers. They don't traditionally become rugby league coaches.

"So we need a program to train these primary school teachers into being rugby league coaches. You can only do that with a real good joint venture with the education department."

2023 will also mark the first year of the next player's CBA, with a plethora of star names currently unsigned for the season and in line to gain strong interest should a new license be permitted.
Kalyn Ponga, Harry Grant, Clint Gutherson, AJ Brimson, Ryan Papenhuyzen, Viliame Kikau and Cody Walker are just some of the star names that will be available by November 1.
Supercoaches Wayne Bennett and Craig Bellamy have also been linked to a new Brisbane club, with both premiership mentors set to end their respective tenures at the conclusion of the 2021 season.