NRL to make small steps into Perth

By , Scott Bailey is a Roar Guru

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    NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg has vowed to try and strike while the iron is hot in Perth following the closure of Super Rugby’s Western Force.

    But it won’t come in the form of a rushed together NRL team.

    Perth is seen as a likely destination of the league’s next expansion team, following the collapse of the Western Reds in 1997 as a result of the Super League war.

    However any expansion of the current 16-team competition is not expected until at least the next television rights deal in 2022, for when additional Queensland teams, a second New Zealand side and even a Pacific franchise are also considered likely options.

    But Greenberg said the game would look to make small moves into the state given the lack of either rugby code in the city as of next season.

    “You won’t see us just landing a new NRL team there because of what’s happened to the Force but what you will see is us looking strategically at Perth to play games,” Greenberg told Triple M.

    “Next year you can expect us to look very closely at what we can do in Perth for new opportunities also what we can do to continue our junior development programs and grass roots as well.

    “But it’s not as simple as just picking up a club and moving it in there in the short term. It takes a lot more effort and a significant investment to make it work”

    Two games per season have been taken to Perth in recent years, a figure that could be increased next year.

    Australia hosted New Zealand in a Test match at nib Stadium last October and a World Cup rugby league double header will be played in the city in November before the new Perth Stadium hosts a State of Origin game in 2019.

    There are 3,600 registered rugby league 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.

    However NRLWA chief executive, John Sackon, predicted to AAP earlier this year that the exclusion of the Force would give rugby league a free kick in the state if they wished to take it.

    “The talented kids out of the rugby codes want to pursue a career,” Sackson said in May.

    “That option now exists with the Force, and it could come back the other way.”

    © AAP 2017