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Mapping out future NRL expansion

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    Dallas Johnson from the Storm is spear tackled in the NRL by Gold Coast Titans players AAP Image/Action Photographics/Jeff Crow

    Dallas Johnson from the Storm is spear tackled in the NRL by Gold Coast Titans players AAP Image/Action Photographics/Jeff Crow

    With the NRL footy season about to end after this Sunday’s blockbuster between the Eels and Storm, it’s now time for me to try and remember what I do with my time during the off season.

    One way to pass the time is to have a look into the future and see what it holds for the NRL, in this case its potential expansion plans.

    Here is my guess at which clubs will be lining up for the beginning of the 2020 NRL season.

    These predictions may seem reasonable if you have been following media and fan discussions surrounding the matter.

    Firstly, here are the new teams:

    1. Central Coast team.
    Everyone’s prediction for the next cab off the rank. Population of 300 thousand, and they already have the 20,100-seater Bluetongue stadium.

    The Central Coast are screaming out for an NRL license, the only real question is whether it will be The Central Coast Bears or a brand new name – for example The Central Coast Centurions.

    While the Greg Florimo lead Bears bid has already named a coach in David Farleigh and sponsor in Mortgage House, the NRL will want to use the Gold Coast Titans as a blueprint for all new bids and teams due to their fantastic success.

    If the fans in the Central Coast were given the choice between having an extinct Sydney team or having their very own team name and image, it’s hard to see them preferring the Bears.

    2. Queensland teams.
    With its huge population growth and three current teams all going gangbusters, the NRL will want to give licenses to more Qld teams. This is only logical. The only question is where and who first.

    The Central Qld bid is currently considered to be out in front, but this of course can change. They are rugby league fanatics and have a team in the Qld Cup competition.

    They would be based in Rockhampton and the only concern is that the population of Central Qld is only 190K.

    However, the NRL will look favourably at the Central Coast due to the ongoing support for the North Qld Cowboys, arguably the most loyal supporters of any NRL team.

    The NRL can easily forecast Central Qld having the same strong parochial support.

    The Sunshine Coast have a population of 312 thousand are they are the 2009 Qld Cup champions in their first year in the competition.

    The Sunshine Coast team wear maroon and white, they are the Eagles, and the Sunshine Coast NRL bid have stated although they would prefer their own NRL team they are willing to accept a relocated Sydney team.

    So guess where I’m going with this one?

    Manly to relocate to the Sunshine Coast.

    Many Sydneysiders agree that ten Sydney teams are too many for a 16 or 18 team competition. Manly have done well to fight back from near bankrupcy in the nineties, but they have private ownership who will surely be tempted to relocate to a strong rugby league demographic in Australia’s fastest growing region.

    Sea Eagles chief executive Grant Mayer revealed his club’s plans to host NRL games on the Sunshine Coast back in 2008 and don’t forget the NRL’s $8 million relocation package is available for any Sydney club contemplating a move interstate.

    The Ipswich/Logan corridor was named by David Gallop as a possible place for a new team.

    Brisbane’s South West area’s of Ipswich and Logan are joined by the motorway, have a population of 400K and ironically the Ipswich Jets battled against the Souths Logan Magpies in the 2008 Qld Cup grand final. This would make a fantastic local derby with the Brisbane Broncos and would not affect the Broncos powerful influence in Brisbane.

    Here are the definite maybes:

    1. The Wellington Orcas
    Out-pointed for the 16th license by the Gold Coast Titans (as were the Central Coast Bears) and unfortunatly will probably get out pointed in any future bids as well.

    The NRL will need to put in a lot of effort towards junior development in the North Island in particular before giving New Zealand a second NRL team.

    2. Papua New Guinea
    The only country where rugby league is the number one sport.

    For me, the Kumuls were the highlight of the 2008 Rugby League World Cup and you can imagine them being crowd favorites. Although the passion and enthusiasm is obviously there, the infastructure is not.

    Mal Maninga has backed a PNG bid for inclusion into the Qld Cup and this is a logical step before the NRL.

    PNG, however, is still for the most part a third world country and they will need huge improvements in the country’s infastructure first.

    This is a bigger priority than sport.

    In saying that, a PNG team in the NRL would be a great achievement and something for the whole country to identify with.

    3. Adelaide/Perth
    The AFL exhausted all avenues in the southern states before expanding with the new Western Sydney and Gold Coast teams.

    Due to weak administration and News Ltd’s involvement, rugby league is at least ten years behind the AFL and has not yet given licenses in the northern states, where they are so obviously wanted.

    These northern states expansion plans may be seen as preaching to the converted but these safe bases will be covered before any risky moves into AFL heartland.

    Unfortunately, the suffering NRL fans in Adelaide and Perth will have to make do with the occasion live NRL game and Foxtel for the fore see able future.

    Just like Wellington, the NRL will want to put in years of junior development before they would even consider this sort of move and even then it would probably require the relocation or extinction of an exsisting Sydney team.

    Here’s who will not be with us:

    The Cronulla Sharks
    The sharkies are approximately ten million dollars in debt and the only reason St George bank are still supporting them is because they are land asset rich.

    The insular peninsular, as Roy Masters called them, Cronulla are sandwiched between St George and Illawarra. If you believe the rumours, the NRL was none too happy when the Sharks knocked back the NRL offer to move them to the Central Coast.

    Ominously, the Sharks’ requests to play home games at the Central Coast were knocked back by the NRL and David Gallop has refused to publicly back Cronulla’s future in the NRL.

    So here’s my prediction for the 18 team line up for the 2020 NRL season: 10 NSW teams (8 in Sydney), 6 Qld teams, 1 ACT, 1 NZ.

    Brisbane Broncos
    Canberra Raiders
    Central Coast Centurions
    Central Qld Comets
    North Qld Cowboys
    Gold Coast Titans
    Ipswich Logan Wolves
    Melbourne Storm
    Newcastle Knights
    Parramatta Eels
    Penrith Panthers
    South Sydney Rabbitohs
    St George Illawarra Dragons
    Sunshine Coast Sea Eagles
    Sydney Roosters
    New Zealand Warriors
    West Tigers

    This expansion prediction is using the assumption that the NRL continues its growth with TV ratings, crowd numbers, and memberships, which should allow for the depth to sustain 18 teams.

    Also that we have an independent commission running the game who can make the tough decisions and that News Ltd no longer have NRL co-ownership, allowing for fairer future TV rights deals.

    Also that the NRL brings back the reserve grade competition.

    I’d be interested in anyone’s opinion on this and where I may have gone wrong. With the NRL growing the way it is, the next ten years or so will be very interesting as we see how the game evolves and shapes itself for a very bright future.

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    The Crowd Says (137)

    • September 29th 2009 @ 6:25am
      OzeToon said | September 29th 2009 @ 6:25am | ! Report

      As a sunshine coast based manly fan I would welcome the sea eagles here with open arms obviously. Too much forum talk always leads to this- one major issue we have nothing up here that even resembles a stadium! Just a park with scaffolding seats and no funding

    • September 29th 2009 @ 6:51am
      Jeff Baxter said | September 29th 2009 @ 6:51am | ! Report

      The flaw in your thinking about png is twofold: firstly sport is capable of driving development and investment. Secondly waiting could be fatal if for example the afl take a more long term approach and invest now. If rl shows it’s faith and support for png this would be paid back so many times.
      Also the need for more competitive international sides is painfully obvious.

      • September 29th 2009 @ 8:29am
        Siva Samoa said | September 29th 2009 @ 8:29am | ! Report

        so ignore all the violence happening in png rugby league and just put a team in the nrl. what about the travelling fans ? a guy who was the head of air new guini airlines got car jack and was almost killed last week. it happens in png everyday and it would happen again. they are not ready for nrl. the passion and finance is there but the rest isn’t. i think the main priority for the arl/nrl is to finally put the national into the NRL.

        • September 29th 2009 @ 10:16am
          mushi said | September 29th 2009 @ 10:16am | ! Report

          Yep if your objective is to find out how much news coverage we can get with the murder of an NRL player then PNG all the way.

        • September 29th 2009 @ 10:16am
          The knowledge said | September 29th 2009 @ 10:16am | ! Report

          Absolutely right. Some people don’t realise that PNG is still very much a 3rd world country. The government have just agreed to put $8.8million dollars towards an NRL team. Where do they get this money from? Is there no better way that the government could be spending that sort of money, especially when they are in so much debt to Australia already? Also, I was wondering why the upcoming Pacific Cup won’t be broadcast from PNG and Steve Mascord said in his blog that it is extremely expensive to mount a telecast from PNG….. how are they meant to mount 10-15 games a year if they enter the NRL? They’ll have to broadcast using smoke signals.

    • September 29th 2009 @ 7:46am
      Meni Law said | September 29th 2009 @ 7:46am | ! Report

      Problem with your assumptions re the Central Coast is that the Bears do have a lot of support up here, and they did plan to move here as the Central Coast Bears over 10 years ago, Not to mention their contribution and initiation in building the stadium.

      Also, did you not hear David Gallop recently state that it makes sense for any Central Coast team to be connected to the North Shore of Sydney, and that they are talking to the Bears people.

      Yes it makes sense to look at the Titans blueprint as for bid preperations and ticking the right boxes.

      No it does not make sense to ignore the thousands of existing Bears fans, colours, history and marketability ;That would be bloody minded and not much short of shooting yourself in the foot.

      Do you think that if the Gold Coast had a foundation team on it’s doorstep with over 100 years proud history, who allready had strong links to the area and had contributed to building the stadioum, and also were keen to get back into the comp, and also had thousands of additional ready to go fans, they would not have adopted them ??

      The Bears involvement is one of the main reasons the Central Coast bid has so much appeal.

      • September 29th 2009 @ 12:02pm
        LT80 said | September 29th 2009 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

        The reality is that there are not really thousands of Bears fans. It might be fair to say there are thousands of people on internet forums and blogs around the place calling for the Bears to come back….but that doesn’t really amount to much I’m afraid. Talk is so cheap.

        If the Bears were getting 3 or 4 thousand people coming to their home games in the NSW Cup each fortnight, that would send a message that would be impossible to ignore.

        But most “Bears supporters” will turn up their nose, and say, why would I go to a “reserve grade” game. Poor attitude IMO.

    • September 29th 2009 @ 8:11am
      macavity said | September 29th 2009 @ 8:11am | ! Report

      If there is a team on the CC, it will be the Bears.

      CQ is too small, and Perth has too much going for it to ignore.

      I don’t think Manly will relocate – although Sunshine Coast could be ready in 10 years or so.

      The latest whispers on the PNG proposal has the team based in Darwin and splitting games between there and PNG. No idea if it would work (or should be tried). PNG is a 3rd world country and a bloody dangerous one at that. I don’t know that many top players would choose to live there (even PNGers)….

      There also needs to be another team playing out of Suncorp.

      IMO the next 2 admissions will be CC and another Brisbane (out of Suncorp), with Perth and either Sunshine Coast or Wellington to follow in the next round (or by relocation).

      The issue there is will the Broncos spit the dummy like they did last time, and will they start their own comp again?

    • Roar Guru

      September 29th 2009 @ 8:28am
      Pippinu said | September 29th 2009 @ 8:28am | ! Report

      “So here’s my prediction for the 18 team line up for the 2020 NRL season: 10 NSW teams (8 in Sydney), 6 Qld teams, 1 ACT, 1 NZ.”

      Not wanting ot sound picky – but what about the Storm?

      Otherwise, reasonable projections.

    • September 29th 2009 @ 8:29am
      True Tah said | September 29th 2009 @ 8:29am | ! Report

      I can only agree that there is a clear advantage for the Central Coast team to be called the Bears with traditional colours, there would be thousands of Bears supporters like myself who would be integrated back into the NRL.

      There is no way a PNG side will be in the NRL, I think it would be best to have the infrastructure first and then consider a side.

      Wellington, there is not enough support there for a team.

      Perth, the Force have probably stolen a lot of the potential market here, and it is only a small market.

      Central Coast and Central Queensland/Sunshine Coast.

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