There’s been uproar this week about a Sydney team being cut from the NRL, because apparently people are upset by reality.
The future of rugby league in Australia came up after Nine’s director of sport Tom Malone floated the idea of a “club being discontinued and a new club established in Brisbane”.
“What clubs should go? I’m not going to get into that one,” Malone told the Sunday Mail.
Naturally, despite the fact Malone was speculating competition-wide, his discussion became a tear-filled argument about which Sydney team would be sacrificed to the TV gods.
Two of Sydney’s most prominent politicians, prime minister Scott Morrison and NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian, were eager to get on board.
“Leave the Sea Eagles alone,” Berejiklian said, with Cronulla fan ScoMo contributing, “Channel Nine doesn’t run the game, the NRL does.”
The narrative that Channel Nine was out there picking on the Sydney teams came about despite the fact Malone had explicitly stated that he didn’t want to speculate which team was on the chopping block.
So why are we talking about culling a Sydney team? Well, um, because it’s obvious.
There are nine NRL clubs based in Sydney. In Brisbane, there is one.
Last week, the Broncos attracted a crowd of 33,020 to their game against the Eels.
By comparison, there were 14,640 at Brookie to see the Sea Eagles take on the Storm, 11,311 at the SCG for the Roosters vs Panthers and 9136 – again at the SCG – to see the Dragons get mauled by the Tigers.
Three games in Sydney – two of which were intra-city derbies and the third between clubs that have a well-established rivalry – just barely attracted more punters than one game in the Queensland capital.
What’s more, this isn’t an unusual occurrence. A game at Suncorp consistently pulls in a crowd that’s the rough equivalent of three matches in Sydney.
Another Brisbane team is a no-brainer, particularly since this second team would not cannibalise the Broncos. With over two million people living in the city, Brisbane can more than sustain two teams, especially if they are playing at Suncorp on alternating weekends – and twice a year for the Brisbane derby, you could guarantee a sell-out.
As for the rest of the country’s teams? Well, if you’re going to claim to be the National Rugby League, you’ve got to have teams stretching beyond Hornsby in the north and Wollongong in the south.
That’s why, even though he didn’t say it, Malone’s words became ‘Nine want to kill a Sydney team’ – because that’s what has to happen.
There are too many teams in Sydney and not enough in Brisbane. Duh.
Malone didn’t say the Sharks, Sea Eagles or Tigers needed to go the way of the Newtown Jets – hell, he didn’t even say the obvious and call out the Titans – he just pointed out that we should have another Brisbane team.
It was the outrage patrol that pointed out which clubs were most ripe to be picked in favour of a second team in Brisbane. Because they’re the clubs that have been living perilously close to the edge for years.
Rugby league is a game of attrition and if the NRL walk the talk and stop propping up failing clubs, then that attrition is going to occur off the field as well.
A Sydney club is going to be culled. Because there are too many teams in Sydney and not enough in Brisbane.