For years now, the NRL have always discussed or made mention of the need for potential expansion yet despite all of that, nothing has ever actually happened. Any discussion has been all talk and no action. In the eyes of the fans, this is disappointing as they would desperately love to see certain areas rewarded for their hard work and commitment to creating the proper environment to host a rugby league team.
So, just what do these locations bring to the table as a budding expansion bid and how well would they be able to adapt to the NRL landscape? We thought we’d take a look at the top five locations on everyone’s lips and assess their viability as a potential NRL organisation.
1. Central Coast, Sydney
Do we or don’t we? That is the question on everyone’s minds when you refer to the Central Coast housing an NRL team. As we all know, once upon a time, the North Sydney Bears were synonymous with the region as an outpouring of fans made regular trips South to support the now defunct franchise. However, the Bears have refused to give up in their quest to re-enter the NRL and one area consistently mentioned is the Central Coast.
With a multi-purpose stadium built in Gosford that has housed rugby league games in recent times with some success and good crowd numbers, the capacity is there for a team to move right in, re-establish themselves with the area and win the hearts of the local rugby league fanbase in the area. The fans certainly love their rugby league with the recent Sydney Roosters v Cronulla Sharks clash earlier this year recording a crowd figure of 20,060, the 2nd highest at the venue in the last 15 years.
The market is there to make a move to the Central Coast as is the fanbase but is it too much of a case of Back to the Future for such a move to eventuate.
2. Perth, Western Australia
On the subject of Back to the Future, here is one area that fans loved seeing host a rugby league side when the Western Reds were in business in the mid 90’s. A logical choice given the time zone, the ability to play an extra game on a Sunday afternoon at 6 pm (AEDT) is an alluring one and allows for a second tripleheader on the weekend.
Keeping up-to-date with their rugby league systems, their junior development and all other rugby league matters, the Western Australian Rugby League are the most ready to go of any of the bids and if they were given the opportunity to play in the NRL, they would have a lot of talent to draw upon from players that were previously born in or based in Perth.
As for the fanbase, that is also no issue; just last year, the test match between Australia and New Zealand had a crowd attendance of 20,283, highlighting just how much the Perth public is craving an NRL team to watch out of niB Stadium more regularly.
3. Brisbane, Queensland
Some like the idea, some love the idea and others hate the idea. Why dilute the Brisbane market with another team, they ask? Conversely, others ask; why not? For years, the Brisbane Broncos have been able to gather copious amounts of resources and tools designed to have them perform at their peak across their entire footballing organisation given they are a one-team town.
Enter, a second Brisbane team. Suncorp Stadium is sturdy enough, effective enough and big enough, to host 2 rugby league games on any given week. That is not the main sticking point, though.
Many believe that Brisbane now has the player development, the landscape, the means and the population to actively support a second Brisbane-based team. It must be asked, though, just how many fans would stop supporting the Broncos to support a new Brisbane team?
4. Central Queensland
Perhaps one of the more contentious suggestions of the lot, the Central Queensland area is one that has experienced growth in certain areas but also a lack of growth in others or a decline in previously growing areas. The commitment and desire to host a rugby league team is there but the long-term viability would remain the biggest issue.
Although the depth of talent from the Central Queensland region is no issue, it is most other issues that have many concerned. With no major stadium, no major sponsor and very little recent news to highlight the alleged success and strong backing of such a bid, is it a feasible option to make this move with other bids in a much better financial position? The choice is the NRL’s but other bids could feel hard done by if a Central Queensland bid got the nod.
5. Wellington Orcas, Wellington.
The furthest away of the quintet is a Wellington team. From a commercial perspective, the New Zealand Warriors are flying high at their Auckland base and have taken games to Wellington, Dunedin and Waikato, in a bid to increase their fanbase and tap into rugby-centric cities across the country. Kiwis are a passionate bunch and many love their league and their rugby so is it worth the investment and the potential tough, early slog to grant a licence to a second New Zealand side based in Wellington?
Although Wellington is still on the North Island, it is a much closer option for those living on New Zealand’s South Island when it comes to attending rugby league matches.
And, just as an indication as to what to expect regarding crowd figures; the Canterbury Bulldogs took a home game to Wellington Stadium against the New Zealand Warriors and it amassed a crowd figure of 18,212 which is not bad for an area largely associated with rugby union and not rugby league.