Earlier in the week, NRL CEO Todd Greenberg hinted at possible expansion for the NRL competition in the future. Although he did not specify a time frame, it does look like expansion may again be on the table.
We’ve heard this story many times before. Not since the introduction of the Titans has there ever been more than whispers, but the expanding player pool combined with increased ratings makes it almost inevitable that expansion will happen.
Disaster aside, you can all but rule out relocating or replacing a current NRL club.
There was once a thought that Sydney were over saturated and any future club hoping to enter the competition would have to come at the expense of an existing club.
Given the TV money on offer combined with the fact it would totally alienate a fan base from the game, I simply can’t see any of the current 16 sides being tapped on the shoulder.
For the record I support expansion, to a point. The increased awareness and overall quality of both the NSW and QLD Cup competitions shows that there is a player pool that could handle the increase in numbers.
With every player that exits the game there seem to be two players emerging. That said, I’d probably give it a few more seasons. Probably 2021 at the earliest.
If expansion would have to come with the introduction of two teams. Bye rounds are bad for the draw and TV and surely won’t happen.
Below are the teams I expect to be in the running for expansion.
Perth: For mine, Perth is the obvious and almost automatic expansion. The demand for the game is huge, proven by the continued big crowds that NRL fixtures draw in the west. Next season’s Origin fixture in the Western Australian capital will be a monster event in a world class stadium.
There are plenty of fans of the game over there due to expats from the eastern states as well as the ease of access to the game. All games are live in Perth now, whereas years ago Friday night fixtures were pushed back past midnight and pubs and clubs refused to play fixtures live.
The time slot will be extremely appealing to broadcasters, with a potential 9:30 fixtures (NSW/QLD time) set to add to existing TV deal value. If the NRL wants to stick to existing time slots, prime time fixtures in the traditional league states would be family friendly slots in WA. The best of both worlds.
If there is an expansion, I can’t see it moving ahead without a side based in Perth. Nor should it.
Yes, travel is long and can be expensive, but the NRL will look at the bottom line, and Perth makes a world of sense. Plus trips to New Zealand and North Queensland aren’t exactly short bus trips either.
A no-brainer. Lock in Perth as one of the sides and start the conversation for one side out of the below options.
Brisbane: There has been talk of a second Brisbane side entering the competition for as long as I can remember. Given the fact that the Broncos no longer dominate on the field as they once did, perhaps the time is right.
I can’t see too many fans jumping ship to a new side, although there will no doubt be a few, but there are plenty of fans that live between Brisbane and Townsville that could be converted. Surely any bid here would focus on the huge space between the capital and the other big QLD towns.
Take a few games to the bush stadiums in central QLD (if possible) and I’m sure this bid suddenly appeals a lot more to potential stakeholders.
A second Brisbane-based side would obviously create an obvious and instant rivalry with the Broncos, and would mean a four-team QLD mini series of sorts. You can’t tell me the Titans wouldn’t take it very personally that another side would be entered. Sign me up!
Central Queensland: There’s certainly the potential fans to justify a central Queensland side’s entry into the competition but the travel and stadium size issues could be a potential issue.
Stadium Mackay has a capacity of 12,200 so there would have to be concessions made for games against the Cowboys and Broncos. Earlier central Queensland bids centred around a purpose built stadium in Rockhampton. The club would again likely be based here, although Mackay has the biggest ready to stadium.
It really offers up plenty of positives and could cast a net over a huge amount of potential fans. They’d need to host late games early on in the season, much like the Cowboys do, which again offers up a later time-slot if needed.
North Sydney/Central Coast: Where there’s expansion talks there are hats and flags proudly displaying the Bears logo. Their names will be there again now that expansion has been brought up by the NRL boss.
Yes, there is plenty of tradition in any potential Bears bid, but North Sydney, as an NRL option, looks well gone. The Northern Eagles should have killed off the club but the NSW Cup version still manages to pull in big crowds and provide plenty of entertainment.
They would have to be based out of the Central Coast to be any shout, but with Sydney already hosting plenty of NRL action every weekend, and plenty of games making their way to Gosford, they start behind the eight ball.
PNG: There’s a huge push to include a side from our neighbours to the North, or perhaps a side made up from players across the pacific island nations. I like a PNG-based side as quite frankly there is no bigger fan base than the league-mad nation.
They’ve already made a huge impact in the Queensland Cup competition, even capturing a premiership. It’s a real feel good story and you’d have to think the nation’s best players would be looking at shifting sides should an NRL side emerge.
Obvious travel costs and climactic issues present problems, but they could play games at home during the ‘cooler’ months while sharing home games within Queensland.
As an NRL fan this looks an amazing option despite the obvious draw backs.
To be based in Wellington you’d imagine, it could open up a second home avenue for NZ and pacific island based players. The number of Polynesian players in the competition has never been higher. I have no doubt that a second home side could see many more players stay closer to family.
Could appeal to broadcasters in that it offers an earlier time slot for home games although I think the main appeal is the possible number of fans and players who could be brought in by the presence of a Wellington-based team.