SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - 1996: Mark Geyer of the Western Reds looks dejected during a ARL match held in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Getty Images)

Former Western Reds chairman Laurie Puddy has put forward a claim for the Reds to return to the NRL and become the league's 18th franchise.

The Perth based club were axed in 1997 when the ARL and Super League merged to make a 20-team league but Puddy believes that Perth should make a return to the national league by as soon as 2024.

The news comes after the Redcliffe-based Dolphins became the 17th team to enter the NRL last week after a successful expansion bid, edging out the Brisbane Jets and Brisbane Firehawks for the licence to join the competition from 2023.

SEE MORE: Dolphins confirm Bennett negotiations nearing end 

The audacious claim that the NRL could jump to 18 teams by the end of 2024 will ruffle feathers at NRL HQ, who took 16 years to go from 16 teams to 17 despite the clear need for an extra team in the Brisbane market.

Roosters' chairman Nick Politis recently called for an 18th team to come from Queensland, however, Perth has held NRL games and State of Origin with success, and the added advantage of time zones for TV mean Puddy thinks his city holds the edge when it comes time for more expansion.

"It would take us two years," Puddy said speaking to The Daily Telegraph.

"I would drive it, but you might find there are other people in Perth who would want to have a crack too. The answer is we need to get a team into Perth."

The former Reds chairman has already met with ARL chairman Peter V'Landys about the prospect of the Western Reds returning to expand the league to 18 teams.

If the Reds are to return to the NRL, their home ground would be at HBF Park, where the Perth Glory play A-League home games, with a capacity of 20,500.

Marquee matchups could be played at Optus Stadium with crowds of up to 60,000, a proposition that excites Puddy.

"Souths go over there on a regular basis. Manly, Canterbury. They know the crowds they can pull – 20,000-plus. They get 5000 to 10,000 more people at Perth than they would do at a home game," Puddy said.

"Back in 1995, the population of WA was about 1.3 million. The population of Perth today is nearly three million."

"We had 24,000 people at our first game (in 1995) and averaged around 15,400 thereafter, and that was playing at the WACA, which is a cricket ground."

"I have business contacts and colleagues sitting in Perth waiting for something to happen. All they say is: 'Laurie, when is it going to happen?’ Support for the game isn’t in question. Why wouldn’t Perth be a success? We have done it before."

"If we couldn’t get 20,000 a game then I’m a bad judge. Back in 1994-95, we were inundated with support from sponsors."

RELATED: Geyer and Sattler explain pitfalls and perks for expansion players

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo has not ruled out an 18th expansion team for the league, but insists the main priority at the moment is getting the current expansion teams up and running.

2020 State of Origin Media Opportunity
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 27: NRL CEO Andrew Abdo speaks to the media during a State of Origin media opportunity at Pullman Quay Grand Sydney Harbour on October 27, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

"In the long-term, if there was further expansion, the ARLC would consider all options – from Western Australia to New Zealand and the Pacific," Abdo claimed.

"There are so many opportunities. Why would you want to exclude anywhere?"

"Right now our priority is ensuring the successful expansion of the NRLW to six teams and the NRL to 17 teams."


  1. Maybe there are lots of sponsors in the wings – perhaps there is damn-all else for them for them to support.

    But I see problems:
    Flight time Perth to Sydney 4.5 hours. Flight time Auckland to Sydney 3 hours. The Warriors have struggled with travel for years (remember how much better they were last year, based on the Central Coast?)
    A Perth team will play matches in a different time zone to Qld and NSW – broadcasters may be unhappy.

    Most critically, where is the infrastructure in WA to grow the youngsters? That is the nastiest problem. League in WA would need a _lot_ of long term support (ie money) from the NRL. Qld and NSW clubs will almost certainly baulk at that, when most run at a loss every year.

    A WA team would be high-risk. Another Qld team would be low risk. Even a Fiji-based team would be a lower risk than Perth.

    Where is the evidence that WA boosters have looked at the lessons from the Western Reds and learned from that episode?

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