Can Brisbane support a second NRL team? Absolutely. Will Brisbane support a second NRL team? Nope.
There is no doubt that these days Queensland is the heartland of rugby league.
Sydney and New South Wales have the lion’s share of teams, but this is largely an accident of history.
If you were starting a brand spanking new National Rugby League today, it’s hard to imagine the Harbour City would end up with nine teams, whereas the entire state of Queensland would have no more than three – only two of which seem to be making a go of things.
But we aren’t starting a brand new NRL today – we have to work with what we have. And the fact of the matter is: a second team in Brisbane will be a failure.
This seems counter-intuitive. For decades we’ve been told that the next ‘obvious’ move is for the NRL to expand in Brisbane.
The sheer number of rabid rugby league supporters there and in the surrounding area makes it obvious to anybody with a brain that the River City needs another team, or so we are wisely informed by the powers-that-be.
Besides, the Broncos have a monopoly on things up here, and there are an enormous number of NRL fans – and club administrators – that have been dying to see them taken down a peg for the last 30 years.
As someone who lives in Brisbane — and, full disclosure, supports the Broncos – let me lay down some home truths.
This is Broncos territory. Oh sure, there are always people who hate them, even up here. A surprising number actually.
But on the whole, the Broncos have the city locked up. They dominate sport advertising, they get numbers at Lang Park (sorry, Suncorp Stadium) that other teams can only dream about, and the sheer amount of goodwill for the team in the city as a whole is palpable.
A second team, in other words, would have to compete with the most successful sporting franchise in Australia, and on that franchise’s own terms.
Broncos fans are some of the most passionate in Australia too. If the roof at Suncorp Stadium wasn’t bolted down squarely, they’d blow it away with cheering when the team runs out onto the field.
Walk into any pub in Brisbane when there’s a game on, and you’ll find a crowd watching the game on the television while they drink their XXXX. Numbers don’t lie, gate receipts don’t lie, advertising revenue doesn’t lie, million-dollar sponsorship deals don’t lie.
It is impossible to believe that such a devoted fan base is simply going to switch over to a new team.
Sure, they might pick up those Brisbanites who aren’t Broncos fans – as I mentioned above, they do exist – but the entire rationale behind placing this second Brisbane team is that there are enough fans in the area to easily support one.
If this new team has to be supported entirely by Broncos rejects – well, is that enough to build a new franchise from the ground up?
Want a real world example? The Gold Coast Titans.
They’ve spent a decade now trying to establish themselves, yet they have one of the lowest membership tallies in the NRL.
Yes, I know that success brings fans and numbers, and the Titans haven’t had much of that – but success is often a result of a passionate fan base as well, and the Titans don’t have it.
Most NRL fans in the area were already supporters of the powerhouse team up the road, and they haven’t switched their allegiance.
In a burgeoning metropolis of over half a million souls, the Titans have never really picked up enough fans to make the team viable without financial support from the NRL.
The same will happen with any other team placed in the general Brisbane area. A second team might survive in Ipswich or the Lockyer Valley if it builds on the success of the already existing Ipswich Jets, who have a passionate fan base of their own.
But even that is doubtful – after all, the Ipswich Jets are the main feeder club for… you guessed it. The Brisbane Broncos. So too are the Redcliffe Dolphins, the other much-touted possibility to take a step up into the big league.
Could a second team truly take hold in Brisbane? It’s possible, with careful planning and a looooong campaign to whip up public support.
But on the whole it’s doubtful. If the NRL truly wishes to expand, it should start in an area that is truly crying out for a team of their own: the Central Coast.