The next century of rugby league
Rugby league is traveling well at present. Other than the TV deal, there are not too many major issues to be sorted out.
However, the game needs to be proactive and not rest on its laurels. The future is where the battle will be won or lost. One of the most important issues for the future is the code spreading into new areas.
Here is my plan for rugby league expansion over the short, mid and long term.
Next 20 years
The immediate aim is to get in to Western Australia, with a team in Perth. Western Australia is the fastest growing state by population, including a lot of NSW and Queensland ex-pats.
If there is no rugby league presence in Perth, these people will go to other sports.
A team in Perth is a must in the next few years.
The next place is New Zealand. It is unbelievable how popular the code is with the Pacific Islanders over there and around the Pacific. In the next 10 years another New Zealand team is also a must.
Further consolidation in the meantime is needed in the heartland, with another team in Brisbane and a further one in central Queensland. NSW is well served by the existing 10 teams, but the country areas could be served by moving perhaps 6-12 games per year into NSW country areas like Gosford, Wagga Wagga and Coffs Harbour.
By 2032 we need a 22 team competition, with teams in Adelaide and Darwin.
Next 20-50 years
By 2062 Queensland will be the second most populous State according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, and Australia’s population is predicted to be between 35 to 45 million.
By then, rugby league will be well established as the major national winter sport in the country.
Further rationalisation of the code will be inevitable. Nine Sydney teams are a luxury so one shall move to Wollongong and another to the mid north Coast, perhaps around Coffs Harbour, Grafton or Lismore. The NRL should also consider Tamworth and Armidale.
Overall, there should be a maximum of 6-7 teams in Sydney by 2062.
We shall also have a 24 team reserve grade and a 12-16 team second division. There will be a relegation system in place. The Pacific Island Nations shall have a team in the competition.
Next 50-100 years
By the turn of the Century, Western Australia will be the second or third most populous state in the country, pushing Victoria further down to fourth. There is absolutely no doubt, that Western Australia will be the state where the war between rugby league and AFL will be won or lost.
AFL is far ahead at the moment there, but one shall not forget, that rugby union is already played there and league will be coming soon.
The similarity of the codes will split the population between NRL and AFL and the title of Australia’s most popular code will be up for grabs.