The boss of rugby league in Western Australia says if the Western Force are cut from the Super Rugby competition, it would add further weight to the state’s long-term NRL bid.
Governing body SANZAAR confirmed on Sunday the 18-team Super Rugby competition would be cut to 15 for next season, with one Australian team set to go.
That Force were originally tipped to be that team, however they now appear to be vying head-to-head with the Melbourne Rebels to be the fourth Australian franchise.
Meanwhile, in the 13-man game, Western Australian officials have been pushing for the NRL to return to the state since the Western Reds’ stint between 1995 and 1997.
NRLWA’s chief executive John Sackson, is sympathetic of the Force’s plight, but says the absence of any fully-professional rugby side in Perth should help open the door for the Australian Rugby League Commission.
“It’s something for them to consider,” Sackson said.
“It would make Perth an even more attractive proposition because of the opportunities that would exist.”
Sackson is understanding of the fact expansion is off the table at the NRL, and is unlikely to be considered until the end of the current TV deal in 2022.
Perth and another Queensland team are considered the front-runners, while a second New Zealand team would also be an option.
There are 3,600 registered players in Western Australia, and last year five of the West Coast Pirate’s SG Ball juniors debuted in the NRL’s under-20s competition in round one.
They have also lost a number of promising juniors – including Force players Curtis Rona and Chance Peni – to the 15-man game as an easier path to professional sport arrived.
But Sackson predicted that if the Force were to be wound up, and a local NRL team entered, it would be able to claim the state’s best athletes.
“The talented kids out of the rugby codes want to pursue a career,” he said.
“That option now exists with the Force, and it could come back the other way.”
The Kangaroos played their first Test in Perth last year, and the second game of the 2019 State of Origin series is locked in for the state’s new 65,000-seat stadium.
Annual NRL matches at nib Stadium have topped 20,000 in three of the past six visits, and Sackson believes a team would have 10,000 members in their first season.
Crucially he believes even more fans would get behind a new side.
“I don’t think there are a lot of Western Force fans who go to NRL games, and I don’t think there are a lot of rugby league fans who go to Western Force games,” Sackson said.
“But if rugby was to part ways Western Australia those rugby fans wouldn’t have an option in terms of rugby codes.
“They’re more likely to go to rugby league than the other two football codes.”