PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MAY 21: Alex Johnston of the Rabbitohs competes for the ball as Suliasi Vunivalu of the Storm defends during the round 11 NRL match between the South Sydney Rabbitohs and the Melbourne Storm at nib Stadium on May 21, 2017 in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

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.

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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.

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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.

New Zealand: Another fairly obvious inclusion comes from our neighbours to the east. A second New Zealand side would create a mouth watering rivalry with the Warriors.

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.

24 COMMENTS

  1. NRL needs to expand, but the administration is way too incompetent to facilitate anything other than a disaster. The only two options that could even be remotely considered are another Brisbane side or Perth. The rest are fantasy. Mackay could maybe work but way to much risk. The fans would have to be diehard x 10.

    • The main group of companies behind the CQ bid just went into administration (who also would build the stadium) so you could throw CQ out of the equation. Also the possibility of buying into another club.

      Unless two teams merge you would think Perth and another Brisbane team would be the way to go.

      Probanly

  2. How locations where the fans are .
    Riverina , Central West ( Bathurst ) , Central coast, Sunshine Coast, Fiji .

  3. For me only two teams are realistic, the West Coast Pirates (Perth) as they already have a stadium and plenty of support and the Brisbane Bombers. They are the only two suitable teams to consider at this point.

  4. Clearly the next two areas for expansion of the game should be Perth and either Brisbane north or Brisbane west. On a personal note I like LidcombeOval’s suggestion of a team in the Central West. Either the “Bathurst Bogans” or the “Orange Juicers”. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

    • Oxford street “push me pull you’s” 🌈 might kick up a storm πŸŒ§β˜” if they get left out, but naturally Perth and a 2nd Brisbane teams are a must immediately. Especially after the Broncos made 32mil this season.πŸ’ͺπŸ˜ŽπŸ‘

    • So we agree again eels47! This is becoming habit forming. If this continues I’ll have to start calling you “mother superior”. πŸ‘°
      πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

  5. Here is my brainstorm on how I think the NRL could rapidly grow the game. Obviously I am not aware of the logistics and financial support for some of these clubs, but if it could happen, I believe it could be a literal game changer!

    I am interested in seeing what you think this and if you believe this is better than what the NRL are doing! Haha

    2 Tier Regulation System
    2023 TEAMS:
    1. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
    2. Auckland Warriors
    3. Melbourne Storm
    4. Canberra Raiders
    5. St George Illawarra Dragons
    6. Cronulla Sharks
    7. South Sydney Rabbitohs
    8. Sydney City Roosters
    9. Western Sydney Tigers
    10. Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
    11. Parramatta Eels
    12. Penrith Panthers
    13. Newcastle Knights
    14. Gold Coast Titans
    15. Brisbane Broncos
    16. North Queensland Cowboys
    17. Central Coast Bears
    18. South Island Cyclones
    19. West Cost Pirates
    20. Brisbane Bombers
    21. Papua New Guinea Hunters
    22. Western Corridor / Ipswich Jets
    23. Central Queensland Capras
    24. Country New South Wales

    FORMAT:
    2 x 12 team Tiers (NRL PREMIERSHIP & THE CHAMPIONSHIP)

    22 Round season, against all other 11 teams in the same competition, playing each team TWICE in a HOME & AWAY system.

    The TOP 6 teams from the NRL PREMIERSHIP advance to the finals, with the TOP 2 teams going straight to the PRELIMINARY FINALS. The remaining teams will play SEMI FINALS with the format being 3rd v 6th & 4th v 5th

    The BOTTOM TWO teams from the NRL PREMIERSHIP at the end of the rounds (11th & 12th) are automatically regulated to THE CHAMPIONSHIP for the next season, to be replaced by the TOP TWO teams from THE CHAMPIONSHIP (1st & 2nd).
    Also, the team that finished 10th place in the NRL PREMIERSHIP would face 3rd place in THE CHAMPIONSHIP on the night before the NRL GRAND FINAL (after AFL grand final), with the winner keeping or earning a place in the NRL PREMIERSHIP for the next season.

    HOW TO GET A START:
    At the end of the 2022 NRL PREMIERSHIP, the bottom FOUR teams (13th – 16th) will be regulated to the be part of the inaugural THE CHAMPIONSHIP competition in 2023.

    *New Zealand Warriors return to the name β€˜Auckland Warriors’ as a new New Zealand team enters the competitions, this is the only team name change.

    β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”β€”

    Example if happened immediately, starting in 2019:

    2018 NRL FINAL POSITIONS
    1. Sydney City Roosters
    2. Melbourne Storm
    3. South Sydney Rabbitohs
    4. Cronulla Sharks
    5. Penrith Panthers
    6. Brisbane Broncos
    7. St George IllawarraDragons
    8. New Zealand Warriors
    9. Western Sydney Tigers
    10. Canberra Raiders
    11. Newcastle Knights
    12. Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs
    13. North Queensland Cowboys
    14. Gold Coast Titans
    15. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
    16. Parramatta Eels

    2019 NRL PREMIERSHIP
    1. Sydney City Roosters
    2. Melbourne Storm
    3. South Sydney Rabbitohs
    4. Cronulla Sharks
    5. Penrith Panthers
    6. Brisbane Broncos
    7. St George IllawarraDragons
    8. Auckland Warriors
    9. Western Sydney Tigers
    10. Canberra Raiders
    11. Newcastle Knights
    12. Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs

    2019 THE CHAMPIONSHIP
    1. North Queensland Cowboys
    2. Gold Coast Titans
    3. Manly Warringah Sea Eagles
    4. Parramatta Eels
    5. Central Coast Bears
    6. South Island Cyclones
    7. West Cost Pirates
    8. Brisbane Bombers
    9. Papua New Guinea Hunters
    10. Western Corridor / Ipswich Jets
    11. Central Queensland Capras
    12. Country New South Wales

    This though could not happen until 2023 when there is a new broadcast deal.

    • Well straight off the bat I have to say I liked your post seaeaglebrad because next to yours all mine look short! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

      I would also vote for any system that would help the conversation to shift between the Sea Eagles and Eels fans to one where they actually coveted the NRL wooden spoon as an improvement on their current position. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

      I’m not too sure though if either camp would be happy with your suggestion holmsey. Did I just say that out loud? 😁

      Well, I can see that you put a lot of effort into this but the game in Australia just can’t support that many extra teams. There aren’t enough quality players, supporters of the game or enough corporate financial support to make this viable.

      When such a time does come I would support the idea of one single competition with two separate conferences. Similar to but smaller than the NFL conference system (NFC and AFC). Then the best teams from each conference can meet in the finals and no team is relegated.

      I would also like to see a draft system similar to the NFL that favours the teams that finish at the bottom of the competition over the teams that are on top. The NRL would have to fund junior development though as clubs would not want to invest in developing young talent they could not keep.

      At this point in time though I feel that the game can only support two additional teams with mounting pressure on the 9 Sydney based teams to merge or relocate.

      • Haha you need to have the information to support and show make it valid!

        I didnt really put much effort in, just looked up potential bids and how to make it work. Im born and raised in Sydney so I know this is a long shot from happening due to lack of financial support. I was more suggesting if the NRL took its foot out of its ass, and actively went searching and do everything it can to attract financial investors, then this should be the way.

        I do not mind the NFL system, but a problem with it is creating the conferences in the first place and another thing is our main current problem (finance), there would be a few teams that would be a long long long way off becoming as wealthy and established as say the roosters or broncos, therefore not making it fair to complete against each other. So that is why with promotion/demotion it gives new clubs a chance to build and become successful and then earn their right in the NRL against the big dogs. There would be financial rewards for the promoted teams.

        Its Complicated and like i said i dont know the fine details of each bid but if they do the work and make it reality, it would be way infront of AFL, begin to gain interest of other states, maybe second melb team if things go well as its a huge sporting city, and in the end grow the game as a whole.

        IMO they need to promote at least 4 teams in 2023 and make it a 20 team comp, with the next expansion creating tiers/conferences. They have given themselves 7 years to grow before USA/Canada World Cup so cant mess around

        • Relegation wouldnt work in Australia and nz purely due to clubs in certian cities wouldnt get the support from their fans/sponsors and reserve grades, if lets say Brisbane, Townsville, Newcastle, NZ or Melbourne were dropped, it would affect the league tremendously, not many would care if a few sydney teams get relogated, but still there would be angst, look at North Sydney bears for example, there are still fans in the nsw cup, but not having a top tier NRL presence has turned the supporters off of NRL.
          Now if there are newer teams entering the QLD and NSW cup getting promoted, im all for it
          Like redcliffe, centra coast, PNG, ipswich or perth then im all for it, but not at the expense of the current 16 teams, some say too many sydney teams, but NRL was orginally the NSWRL as was VFL is now AFL and they have a similar presence in Melbourne as NRL has in Sydney, i would think relocation would solve that in the next 10 years, with Adelaide, Hobart, 2nd ViC, 2nd NZ and Darwin probably the better solution to broadening the leagues presence around the pacific, but it all depends on which clubs would agree to venture and gain the support in new markets and try to keep the sydney fanbase at the same time
          My preference would be to demerge wests and balmain and have the tigers in perth, since the balmain club is now broke, or canterbury in canterbury in NZ, bad examples but speading the congestion from the distance from parramatta to Eastern suburbs,of 20km where the tigers, bulldogs and souths all encompass would make a stronger league in sydney
          Relegation in england/europe in super league works because of the distances of the clubs are closer, where NRL spread across AUS/NZ is too far for it to work

    • Adelaide Rams. Hello Mc✈ and Sydney City are now Sydney because the bulk of their fans live in Greater Sydney.

  6. 1995 the ARL had perth and 2nd brisbane team plus 2 other teams, who are now 25 years old
    Since super league ruined perth in expenses and ARL dropped Sth QLD at the beheast of broncos wanting to be the only one team in brisbane, we’ll never know where the NRL would be Expanding to next as they’ve basically lost 25 years of possible growth, due to the compromises of both ARL and SL, Melbournes existence was a clear winner, but not much has happened since then barr some mergers and reingiting a presence of the Gold Coast. Personally i would see North Sydney come back on the Central Coast and a 2nd QLD side, wherever the strongest candidate would be, maybe even PNG too
    But Perth or Adelaid would have to be relocated sydney teams, for 2 reasons to have a strong junior base, much like how Melbourne storm have the qld cup teams feed it currently, and also to have a base of fans, like Sydney Swans have with the South Melbourne bloods originally, then in 20yrs will you see juniors stem from those 2 areas as Melbourne storm are starting to produce a few of there own

    • I disagree,

      Firstly I reckon promotion/demotion could work in Aust/NZ as fans wont turn their back on their club if they get demoted, because there is every chance they can be promoted the year after, so more of a reason to support them to get the team back to the top league.

      Secondly, All of the teams you listed, there are bids for close β€˜local’ rivals in each of those (Bombers, Capras, Bears, Cyclones)

      I reckon that relocation is a bad idea for any sydney team, do you really see fans just turning to the next closest team, sharks fans becoming dragon supporters, parra fans turning to the doggies?
      In reality you will likely lose the fans to the A League or AFL. I dont see how distance has anything to do with it…

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