Here’s my take on NRL expansion

Nick Symonds Roar Rookie

By Nick Symonds, Nick Symonds is a Roar Rookie

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    Sydney is oversaturated with NRL teams and tough decisions need to be made for the NRL’s future.

    The fact that there are nine Sydney based teams in the 16-team ‘national’ competition is both unsustainable and ridiculous. Not only do they cannibalise each other’s support but they prevent new teams from emerging across Australia to help spread the code.

    As long as the current number of Sydney teams in the NRL continues the financial struggles of the Sydney based clubs will only worsen who only just last year had a combined loss of $36 million.

    With this in mind we need to look at each of the clubs individually to sort the wheat from the chaff and to figure out which ones should be either relocated or merged.

    Sydney Roosters
    First off the rank for examination are the Sydney Roosters.

    Despite their name being ‘Sydney’ they don’t actually represent the whole of the city, just a small area in the eastern suburbs. With few if any fans interested in attending and the size of their market being limited by being hemmed in by other clubs there’s no strong case for keeping them in the competition.

    Although they do have an impressive junior development program.

    Cronulla
    This team often comes up as a candidate for relocation and it’s easy to see why. With only a small enclave in Sutherland to draw fans from their fan-base is always limited and hemmed in by the Dragons. If there’s no room for them to grow they won’t get any bigger.

    Manly Sea Eagles
    For some bizarre reason Manly don’t want to market themselves as a team for the whole of Northern Sydney but just the Northern Beaches part of it.

    With fans who don’t like to travel and a dislike of people from across the spit Manly is stuck with a limited market to work with.

    Penrith Panthers
    Penrith can do better financially by taking two games to Bathurst and Christchurch then what about ten games?

    If Penrith are selling home games to improve thier finances that’s not a good sign.

    What sort of attendances do they get anyway? Not much.

    Parramatta Eels
    Their last premiership was 30 years ago and they have missed the finals for seven straight years now.

    Their board has been a basket case until recently. While A-League and AFL teams in Western Sydney are run by captains of industry and former politicians the Parramatta Eels preferred to choose former players and used car salesmen.

    Luckily they now have a couple of bankers and a few other credible people on the new board so maybe they can turn things around.

    But they still can’t represent or appeal to the whole of Western Sydney like the Wanderers, Giants and Thunder.

    Wests Tigers
    This team is already the result of a merger and it can’t really sell itself as a team for any one place.

    But the biggest sign that they are a struggling club is that they play matches at ANZ. It costs the Tigers $70,000 to play a game at Leichhardt Oval compared to being paid more than $100,000 per game to play matches at ANZ Stadium.

    Canterbury Bulldogs
    Like the Tigers the fact that they take games to ANZ is a sign that the team is desperate for money.

    St George Illawarra
    Like the Tigers this team is also the result of a merger between two geographically separated clubs and also suffers from divided loyalties.

    Also like both the Tigers and Bulldogs the Dragons have to take games to ANZ because of their weak financial situation.

    South Sydney
    Last of all, there’s the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

    The Rabbitohs have tried to sell themselves not just as a club for eastern Sydney but are also now trying to market themselves to people further out west even as far away as Perth. They don’t know where to stop.

    But they still have to compete in the over saturated Sydney market and even when they are doing well their crowds are poor.

    The fact that they have made ANZ their home ground is also a bad sign.

    greg-inglis-south-sydney-rabbitohs-nrl-rugby-league-2017

    (AAP Image/David Moir)

    My bombshell conclusion
    When you look at things objectively you can only come to the conclusion that all of the Sydney teams are a complete mess.

    The solution to this must be drastic. Merge the lot!

    All the Sydney teams should be merged into just two. Eastern Sydney and Western Sydney.

    This formula has been proven to work in the A-League, AFL and BBL. It would make sense for the NRL to follow the same successful model.

    This would then mean they could put seven new teams (not second hand) into strategic markets to grow the game.

    It might sound radical but simply put, it’s like that and that’s the way it is.

    These would be the places where I would put the new teams.

    Perth
    Over two million people and growing.

    Adelaide
    You can’t ignore a market of a 1.2 million people either.

    Adelaide could do with a new stadium but they can be expensive. Maybe something like Empire Field in Vancouver could work.

    Empire Field had 27,528 seats and was built in 111 days for just $14.5 million in 2010.

    Dandenong
    Melbourne will soon be the size of Sydney and one team isn’t enough for a city this size. Don’t be ridiculous.

    South East Melbourne has a population the size of Adelaide and is a manufacturing hub which provides 30 percent of Victoria’s gross state product.

    South Brisbane
    Ipswich would just be another Penrith Panthers. If you’re going to add a second team in Brisbane do it properly.

    The biggest rivalry in Brisbane is the north-south rivalry and this will generate the most interest.

    Sunshine Coast
    Currently the Sunshine Coast has a population over 300,000 which will increase to the size of the Gold Coast within 15 years.

    In addition to the Broncos, Titans and South Brisbane this brings four teams to South East Queensland.

    Easier to attract players to Noosa than Ipswich. Not hard to attract players to Noosa full stop.

    Hobart and Darwin
    Small markets and not completely necessary but it covers all the states and territories to make the NRL live up to their name.

    Also, in recent news Tasmania have threatened not to renew their contracts with North Melbourne and Hawthorn.

    Tasmanians are angry that they have had to pay $30 million over the last five years to see two Melbourne teams bring just seven games a year to the state, mostly against non-Victorian opposition, especially when non-AFL heartlands like Western Sydney and the Gold Coast have received hundreds of millions from the AFL and get to see all the teams and every round.

    This could be an ideal time for the NRL to move into an AFL heartland like Tasmania.

    Two-team model
    Merging all the Sydney teams into just two might be drastic but the two team model has been proven to work in the A-League, AFL and BBL.

    I don’t think this would cause the same problems as there have been with other mergers. East and West Sydney have a strong tribalism which fans of the old clubs can readily identify with so fans will follow the new teams and not turn away from the sport altogether.

    It’s for the good of the game.

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