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An expansionist ideal: Part 2 – The NSW and Queensland Cup

Mark Campbell Roar Guru

By Mark Campbell, Mark Campbell is a Roar Guru

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    In Part 1 of this article, I analysed possible expansion of the NRL to include a team from the following: Brisbane, Perth, the Central Coast, and either Wellington or Papua New Guinea.

    However, what was not covered were the leagues below the elite level. What about any possible expansion for the Queensland Cup or New South Wales Cup?

    The Queensland Cup, it could be argued, is the next premier rugby league competition in the sport. It is a very well organised competition, while the New South Wales Cup consolidates a lot of the fringe players striving to make their way into the numerous NSW-based NRL clubs.

    The future aim of the game is for every NRL side to be aligned with two teams in either the NSW Cup or Q-Cup. So if the NRL is to expand to 18 or 20 teams, then ideally the state cups would consist of the same amount of sides.

    Since my proposal for expansion in the NRL consisted of 20 teams, the following idea highlights a Q-Cup and NSW Cup that comprises 20 teams. I recognise that there are numerous problems with such a proposal. There would be finance and resource concerns without mentioning player talent availability, however, with smart management and planning, anything is achievable.

    So how do the state-based competitions expand to the possible number of teams required without being detrimental to the overall wellbeing of the sport?

    The answer for this is the link between the state and regional level. By this, I mean every country region should be linked to a state-based team.

    For example, any player in the Gold Coast Rugby League or the Northern Rivers competition in country NSW could potentially secure themselves a position with either the Burleigh Bears or the Tweed Heads Seagulls.

    This link provides a clear pathway for players and develops stronger ties between clubs and the code. Obviously, the devil is in the detail, but again if appropriately managed could work.

    So what teams would be added to each competition to bring them up to the 18/20 team mark?

    Firstly, I’ll start with the Queensland Cup. I would like to see the return of some proud clubs to the highest level of Queensland rugby league.

    Bring back the Toowoomba Clydesdales. I know finances were an issue.

    There may have been political issues within the Toowoomba Rugby League that hindered its progress before. Despite this, the region is crying out for a higher level of representation in rugby league.

    I indicated in Part 1 that the Brothers Leprechauns had launched a bid for the NRL. However, I feel that a Q-Cup entry would be more appropriate. They could add some financial clout to the league.

    Another team could be the Western Suburbs Panthers. I know that they also suffered from financial issues. The same could be said for Valleys. Despite this, it would be good to see these clubs return to a higher level.

    With the addition of these four teams, the competition would be increased to 18. For the 20-team feeder system to operate, two more teams would be required. If the Papua New Guinean bid was to be successful as the 20th team in a future NRL, then I would like to see two new PNG teams included in the Q-Cup.

    Rod Griffin Papua New Guinea Rugby League 2017

    (Image: NRL)

    If the Hunters were not successful for their NRL bid, then another team from Papua New Guinea could help develop depth for their national team. Either option leaves the Q-Cup with 19 teams.

    To bring the league up to 20 teams, a team from the Wide – Bay Burnett region based out of Bundaberg may be an option. I know the game had tried before and failed, but hopefully, with more money coming into the sport in the future, a workable solution could be achieved.

    Now for the NSW Cup. There are two schools of thought for this competition. One is that it is too Sydney-centric and the other is that the country regions are not financially secure enough to compete at this level.

    The key ingredient to having country teams promoted into the NSW Cup lies with the NRL clubs. Would they partner with a country affiliate? If so, the following places could host a state team: Tamworth, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie, Bathurst, Dubbo and Wagga Wagga.

    I hear what you are saying, these towns don’t have the population, and they don’t have the finances. That is true… at the moment. However, these areas do love rugby league, and having teams in regional areas have worked for the Q-Cup.

    The other option would be to promote teams from the Ron Massey Cup and the Sydney Shield who do not currently compete in the NSW Cup.

    To highlight how some of the links could work, the Western Suburbs Magpies would be the Wests Tigers affiliate, and if ever the Balmain Tigers return they could be the club’s second – if they decided not to choose a team from the Q-Cup.

    Downcast Wests Tigers fan

    (Image: Joe Frost)

    I know that a group from Glebe are striving to have the Dirty Reds return to the game in an independent form and at present, they are a feeder to the Newtown Jets. Maybe they could form a partnership with a Sydney club and operate on a stand-alone basis.

    There has been a discussion of Fiji and Wellington New Zealand entering a team into the NSW Cup. This plan could work in a similar mode to how the Papua New Guinea Hunters operate in the Q-Cup. The move would undoubtedly enhance the reach of the NSW Cup.

    I get it; these clubs don’t have the financial clout to compete at this level. I stress that for this plan to work then the game needs to plan and distribute its funds equitably, appropriately and strategically, and supply the resources not just for the elite NRL, but for levels below. If undertaken, then the plan is achievable without disrupting country rugby league or the state competitions.

    Ultimately, the game should desire that both the Q-Cup and NSW Cup become self-sustainable competitions just as is the case is in the NRL.

    Are 20 teams too many for the NRL? Most likely, yes. At present, the same argument could be made for 18 teams. Is this plan fantasy? Absolutely it is, at the moment anyway. Though with careful planning, proper management and the right funding arrangements anything is possible.

    As mentioned earlier, at some point in the future, every NRL team will have two feeder teams operating for them. Most likely one will be based in the Q-Cup and the other in the NSW Cup. So, if that’s the case, there is no point expanding at the NRL level if there are no plans to expand the leagues below it.

    For those who live and breathe New South Wales Rugby League and Queensland Rugby League, what plan would you implement if there was to be an expansion of the NSW Cup or Q-Cup?

    The New South Wales State of Origin team for the 2018 series remains a mystery, with new coach Brad Fittler facing plenty of selection headaches. So we want you to tell us - and all your mates - who should start for Blues in Game 1 with our team picker.

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    The Crowd Says (32)

    • January 22nd 2018 @ 8:20am
      BA Sports said | January 22nd 2018 @ 8:20am | ! Report

      Once again – Money grows on trees and so do players apparently. You can’t just promote a group of guys playing the Ron Massey Cup to the NSW Cup! Seriously watch at least one game of RM Cup and one NSW Cup match before making that suggestion.

      If you are going to ignore the impact of finance on expansion, then why throw up the idea at all? – sorry.

      This isn’t a Hallmark film where anything is possible. Expansion of any league is predicated on many things but it all comes back to two things – money and talent – and your plans turn a blind eye to both. Without those two fundamental things anything actually isn’t possible.

      • January 22nd 2018 @ 8:52am
        Oingo Boingo said | January 22nd 2018 @ 8:52am | ! Report

        And the problem with a lack of talent goes back to grass roots and the fact that the NRL appears to care very little about it .
        League is being lapped by the AFL in the bush and in Sydney due to a number of reasons , but the fact that the NRL does very little ( other than the odd game in country centres ) to promote its product, is probably the most prominent.
        As pointed out above , expansion has to be thought out thoroughly and your previous article proved you hadn’t done that .

        • Roar Guru

          January 22nd 2018 @ 9:55am
          Nat said | January 22nd 2018 @ 9:55am | ! Report

          You all make very valid points guys, I respect them and I agree but keep in mind the premise of the article/s, it’s an “Ideal” scenario. It cannot happen in the near future and Mark repeatedly points out the funding is the critical component. Every idea needs a starting point. Set a goal first then create a plan that can achieve them. It’s spit-balling, some ideas will work and some will fail but it is wrong to dismiss the idea completely (and rubbish the author) because it cannot be rolled out tomorrow. The competition we have today started with such thinking.

          • January 22nd 2018 @ 10:32am
            BA Sports said | January 22nd 2018 @ 10:32am | ! Report

            I acknowledge what you are saying and you are correct – but before you publicise an idea, you have to have the financials in place because that is fundamental to any plan.

            Now none of us have access to the books of the NRL including me, but all of us have the ability to use rationale and common sense and these two pieces, are all nice when you are lying in bed thinking about your rugby league Eutopia – this idealistic perfect place. But as we know Eutopia doesn’t exist. You have to know your limitations when setting a plan. This is no more viable than a plan which has Peter Sterling as captain coach of Parramatta through until the year 2030. If that is the piece you want to write and have a conversation about, go for it, it could be fun, but enough with talking about expanding a commercial entity that is barely clinging on as it is.

            No problem talking about the best model for the NRL – where to place 16 teams. No problem talking about how the pathways should look. These things have to change and evolve. But adding doesn’t automatically make things better and the cost of doing so needs to have a clear sustainable correlation to increased revenue that doesn’t rely on a single revenue source (TV) and nobody can show that. If they could, smarter (more visionary) people than any of us, or any one at NRL HQ for that matter, would have come forward and put their money where their mouth is by now

            • January 22nd 2018 @ 11:06am
              Kangajets said | January 22nd 2018 @ 11:06am | ! Report

              Oingo

              Well said , league is being lapped in the Bush by afl
              .
              Newcastle is a prime example of the changes at junior and senior level of the 2 sports .

              • January 22nd 2018 @ 11:28am
                Big Daddy said | January 22nd 2018 @ 11:28am | ! Report

                Exactly.
                A few years ago newcastle had 10 competitive teams.Now down to 8 and Newcastle want to leave country rugby league.
                Pretty much same situation in Wollongong.

            • Roar Guru

              January 22nd 2018 @ 12:21pm
              Nat said | January 22nd 2018 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

              What you just said is exactly the right way of thinking. The author has thrown up a few ideas, not a plan but a starting suggestion. If there is an ideal but fluid model that includes grass roots and regional development and exposure that points toward NSW and Qld Cup then ultimately NRL that’s a good thing. It’s only ‘pie in the sky’ if nothing happens after it. So what is needed? Someone at the NRL to work on the prospect – that’s the easy part, as you point out, the hard part is funding outside of TV revenue. If the $Billion is allocated toward NRL and absolute grassroost, schools, kids training clinics and junior rep carnivals (where talent can be identified). So we have regional CRL, QRL, RM Cup, NSW & Qld Cup (I know there’s more) to find funding for. Some regional football clubs have leagues clubs for support. NRL affiliated clubs do/will receive some support from their respective clubs. Regional footy clubs can be run quite efficiently and with community support via sponsorship, grants, F&B and gate takings and volunteers all helps the cause. Nothing new here, this is how clubs survive today but some don’t. The person in charge of expansion needs to identify strong, growth areas and support them – not prop them up. A type of ‘if you can reach $X community support, we will tip in $Y’.

              A side note. A company I used to work for were a sponsor of the Bathurst Panthers.(unsure today) A, for community support B, it was relatively cheap to do so if they wanted a bit more we would have. There is no harm in asking.

              I said yesterday that I don’t necessarily agree with more NRL clubs just strong ones. If that is both – fantastic. What does CQ, SA, WA or PNG have that will support inclusion and sustainability both from a financial and talent resource POV? Eg, the Storm have the Falcons ( and Easts) as their feeder team because A, talent base (although not all Falcons are Qld juniors) but moreso the standard of competition in the Q Cup preparing them for NRL an standard step up. They are not all ready or able but the cream rises and a Brodie Croft/Jerome Hughes/Riley Jacks steps up for Cronk/Slater. With all the new clubs in Victoria, with proper GR development when can we expect the Storm to relocate and source players from a feeder team in the Vic comp based on all the elements above. Apply the same model to all the new prospects. Therefore, developing the talent base from further afield than just the existing Qld/NSW juniors essentially making the pie bigger. Yes, they are AFL strong holds just as Qld and NSW are League yet we have 4 AFL clubs north of the Vic border and only 1 NRL outside our borders. Growth there is absolutely possible and immediate premierships are not important – Cronulla took 50yrs – developing the new market is the priority.

              Again, like Mark’s article, this is far from the solution but hoping to get people thinking about the steps toward the ultimate goal. Not for implementation tomorrow but to be built upon. There is opportunity and money out there but we are so insular that any suggestion that is not hole proof doesn’t deserve oxygen.

              • January 22nd 2018 @ 2:29pm
                BA Sports said | January 22nd 2018 @ 2:29pm | ! Report

                I don’t disagree with anything you have said fundamentally. Because you are talking about consolidating and building. Reallocating existing funds and resources to try and maximise impact and growing your reach and potential to tap into new funding opportunities. The author ‘s solution to the problem is just get more expensive leagues going without addressing the financial element of those plans.

                As I say, if the intent of the piece is to say ‘when i go to bed this is what my perfect rugby league nation looks like’, then fine. But as a conversation starter for what the NRL and affiliated leagues should be doing as a next step – it is so far wide of the mark and doesn’t consider a tonne of critical factors. Sorry Mark, just my opinion, but it is what it is.

          • January 22nd 2018 @ 6:10pm
            Oingo Boingo said | January 22nd 2018 @ 6:10pm | ! Report

            It’s my opinion that it’s pointless discussing the expansion of a game that is contracting.
            League is dying a death from a thousand cuts .
            Anyway, I have to go look at carriages , even though I don’t own a horse.

      • January 22nd 2018 @ 6:25pm
        Mark Campbell said | January 22nd 2018 @ 6:25pm | ! Report

        Thank you, BA Sports and Oingo Boingo for your opinions. I like the passion you both obviously display for the game. Thanks Nat for the support.

        I guess the title of my articles did not indicate the hypothetical nature of the content. A point I think was much more evident in Part 2 compared to Part 1. Unfortunately or fortunately depending on your viewpoint, I am an optimist. So feel that the game should always be heading for the best case scenario.

        I know my idea relies on a range of matters to occur before it could work, I did acknowledge this when I stated the following:

        “I stress that for this plan to work then the game needs to plan and distribute its funds equitably, appropriately and strategically, and supply the resources not just for the elite NRL, but for levels below.”

        Personally, I am not sure this is happening at the moment. I believe that the funds are too top heavy. Not enough is being supplied to grassroots or clubs across the country. However, as you stated BA Sports, none of us knows the actual financials of the game.

        This leads to my responses.
        BA Sports and Oingo Boingo, I would have to disagree with the following points that you made respectfully:

        “but before you publicise an idea, you have to have the financials in place because that is fundamental to any plan.”
        Oingo Boingo “expansion has to be thought out thoroughly and your previous article proved you hadn’t done that.”

        Since this is an online forum I feel I can publicise an idea without having the full financials. Furthermore, since it is a limited article set for a general audience the ideas presented would not have all the particulars needed for a full plan to take place.

        If I was working for the NRL, in industry or writing an academic paper for university or in the professional world I most certainly would agree with you both. I would never publish anything if I did not have the financial elements covered or the in-depth details required for the plan to work. However, this website allows us as rugby league fans to canvass ideas and these ideas need to be condensed for the reading public.
        I hope that clarifies my thinking somewhat.

        Once again, thank you for your feedback.

        In terms of lying in bed hoping for a rugby league Utopia – the game in the future will have no self-interest, be the number 1 sport in Australia with all levels of the sport getting the attention and funding they rightfully deserve. I hope for the best.

        • January 22nd 2018 @ 8:56pm
          Oingo Boingo said | January 22nd 2018 @ 8:56pm | ! Report

          G’day Mark
          My frustration lies with the NRL , you unfortunately copped a bit of the brunt of it .

        • January 23rd 2018 @ 7:25am
          BA Sports said | January 23rd 2018 @ 7:25am | ! Report

          Mark; I don’t mean to offend I understand we are not writing academic papers or detailed business cases on a forum such as this – it is designed for opinion pieces which is what yours is..

          Expansion as a topic is my trigger unfortunately (and i usually don’t read the “expansion” articles, but there is little else online at the moment).

          To me, and I realise it is just to me, expansion in the NRL is so inconceivable in the current environment and I just don’t understand why people spend so much time mulling over their own personal plans which seem so short sighted and fail to factor in the many reasons why expansion isn’t on the table and won’t (or at least shouldn’t) be on the table any time soon.

          All for discussion around rellocation options in the NRL and improving the pathways (without over complicating it). I think they are things that could (or should) happen.

          Now if you had written a piece suggesting promotion/relegation- then I really would have gone off … 🙂

    • January 22nd 2018 @ 8:58am
      Big Daddy said | January 22nd 2018 @ 8:58am | ! Report

      Exactly BA.
      ATM we have 14 teams in QLD and 12 in NSW.
      At least 50 per cent struggle with finance as they don’t have a licenced club to support it.
      Mark’s plan means we have to have 16 teams in each state with a squad of at least 25.
      That’s 400 in each state ready to step up to NRL standard.
      Half of these guys probably work as they don’t get paid enough at state cup level.
      Also ATM the state level salary cap is 625 unless it has gone up as well.
      Plus at this level you still need coaching and ancillary staff which doesn’t come cheap.
      If you don’t have a strong licenced club to support you the community can only bear so much.
      I know you have put a lot of time effort into this Mark but the numbers really don’t work out . More so at this level.

    • January 22nd 2018 @ 9:36am
      Sammy said | January 22nd 2018 @ 9:36am | ! Report

      The idea of aligning NRL Clubs with two teams needs to reconsidered.

      For the Queensland NRL Clubs this is definitely possible – in fact each of the 4 NRL Club (including the future Brisbane Bombers) can have three feeder clubs in the Queensland Cup. The Melbourne Storm can have one feeder club from Queensland and the PNG Hunters can remain unaffiliated. That’s 14 Qld Cup teams.

      But for the 11 NSW NRL Clubs, two feeder teams will only be possible if we consider both a 1st Division and 2nd Division State League – basically the NSW Cup and Ron Massey Cup.

      The future NSW Cup is likely to have 11 NSW teams plus Auckland, Wellington and Fiji (Total of 14 teams).

      The NZ Warriors can have two feeder clubs – Auckland and Wellington, both participating in the NSW Cup.

      The Penrith Panthers could have two feeder clubs – Windsor and Bathurst (CRL Group 10/11), but Windsor would be a 1st Division team while Bathurst would be a 2nd Division team.

      The Parramatta Eels would probably maintain one feeder club (Wentworthville) fielding a team in both the 1st Division and Second Division.

      Expansion into NSW Regional areas is a worthy concept:

      * North Coast / New Englnad -> Feeder for Newcastle Knights

      * South Coast / Illawarra / Shoalhaven -> Feeder for St George Illawarra Dragons

      * Central West NSW -> Secondary feeder for Penrith Panthers

      * Macarthur / Southern Highlands -> Feeder for Wests Tigers

      * Central Coast -> Feeder for Sydney Roosters

      * Riverina -> Feeder for Canberra Raiders

      • January 22nd 2018 @ 11:33am
        RandyM said | January 22nd 2018 @ 11:33am | ! Report

        The QLD NRL teams (including Storm) all have multiple QLD cup feeder teams already. The Broncos have about 4 or 5.

        The NSW teams all have 1 each I think. Some NSW clubs used to be aligned to QLD cup sides such as the Raiders and Souths Logan but they got pinched by the Broncos.

        • January 22nd 2018 @ 6:27pm
          Paul C said | January 22nd 2018 @ 6:27pm | ! Report

          Randy, the NSWRL put a stop to dual registration not the Broncos!! Manly had a team in the QCup & they were forced back to Sydney.

          • January 25th 2018 @ 2:35am
            bjt said | January 25th 2018 @ 2:35am | ! Report

            Exactly. NSW put a stop to it to strengthen NSW Cup as the QLD Cup is recognised as the stronger comp. Probably something to do with Origin 🙂

            The QLD Cup took a while to find its feet, but it is an excellent example of re-building a competition for the better after the death of Brisbane Comp (Randy, that’s something you can actually blame on the Broncos). They turned it into a true comp to represent the state and not a city. They’re not scared of expansion, e.g PNG (an excellent example of progressing rugby league – something the NRL is yet to do), Townsville. Nor losing a few clubs, eg. Toowoomba.

            This is long overdue for the Sydney comp AKA the NRL. Teams like the Tigers, Magpies, Sharks should be playing in the NSW Cup, while 4 (at the most 5 teams) represent Sydney. This is what rugby league really needs. That and some actual forward thinking and some guts from the people who supposedly run the game.

    • January 22nd 2018 @ 9:38am
      Birdy said | January 22nd 2018 @ 9:38am | ! Report

      Just announced that subject to finance Fiji will enter a team into the NSW cup.
      About time , long overdue.
      But wait, they have to pay all travel expenses for clubs going to Fiji.
      Have we learnt nothing from the Western Reds?.
      Pretty sure Toowoomba is on track to be the next Qcup team.
      Didn’t the Broncos sponso them and have them as their feeder club.
      What happened there?

      • January 22nd 2018 @ 10:52am
        Big Daddy said | January 22nd 2018 @ 10:52am | ! Report

        Those travel expenses would probably be 300-400k per season.
        You would think NRL or NSWRL would foot the cost for a couple of seasons.
        But oh no – why spend money on developing the game.
        The administrators give nothing.
        What a perfect opportunity to create good will.

      • January 22nd 2018 @ 12:11pm
        Brainstrust said | January 22nd 2018 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

        Thats crazy, if they were to put the 400k into funding a competition in Fiji that money would go a long way.
        Same goes for PNG put all the money into a competition in PNG it will go very far in PNG.
        International airfares are very costly whereas 10k a year in Fiji would attract the top Fijian rugby players to switch over, even their rugby sevens squads the only money earners in Fiji get 20k a year, so easy to buy them off as well.
        A lot of the so called expanionism is about taking money off governments rather than doing anything.
        If you look at the rugby league world cup did PNG gain any benefit, its not like they had the equivalent of the Barmy Army going there to earn them money, each world cup match was auctioned off to the highest bidder. The only big travelling contingents were from the Pacific island communities from Australia and New Zealand. The nations where rugby league has big interest in seems to be the nations where they don;t want to invest in.

        • January 22nd 2018 @ 12:43pm
          Big Daddy said | January 22nd 2018 @ 12:43pm | ! Report

          I can see your point but the local comp player’s need some incentive to play a taste higher level.
          If we want Fiji to play in NSWRL comp there has to be some sort of incentive.
          Remember they would probably have to pay for their own travel and accommodation when they play here.
          The NRL don’t mind pumping money into first grade club’s to prop them up.
          Aren’t they supposed to be putting money into grass roots football.
          This article suggests expansion at this level so a lot of people have suggested it’s all about money and the bottom line it is.

    • January 22nd 2018 @ 9:38am
      Paul said | January 22nd 2018 @ 9:38am | ! Report

      Sorry Mark, but these two articles read more like a wish list rather than a possible expansion blue print. You needed to cover both talent and money in real detail and all you’ve suggested is a smoke and mirrors approach to both

    • January 22nd 2018 @ 11:56am
      Fix the scrums said | January 22nd 2018 @ 11:56am | ! Report

      Sorry, I know it’s hard to accept the truth. But the competition in its current state needs strengthening 1st before any expansion dreams can occur.
      It’s good to have a vision forward into the future but there are real issues that need to be addressed now, particularly in Sydney.
      It all comes down to money and support. Some of the current clubs are lacking in both. This is happening in the state leagues and the NRL.
      There are many positives in the game but let’s see how the management go in improving the bottom line and go from there.

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