Cronulla face a crucial fortnight without halfback Chad Townsend as their race to claim a top-eight spot looks likely to go down to the wire.
While Peter V’landys has a vice-like grip on the reins of the NRL, the 16 clubs that make up the premiership have a lot of power in their own right.
And some clearly do not.
With three Queensland clubs, one in Victoria, one in the ACT, one in regional NSW, one in NZ and nine in Sydney, it is an interesting debate as to which club is the biggest and most influential rugby league organisation in the nation.
One metric I used was their membership numbers from 2019 and 2020 and divided by two to get the average. This was done due to the impact that COVID-19 has contributed to fans not committing financially to their club this year.
Other factors I’ve considered are media coverage, both print and electronic, how many prime-time TV games they are given, average crowd figures (2019 home-and-away figure), sponsorship and licensed-club backing.
Their standing in the game and other non-tangible factors such as the influence they have within NRL HQ is a subjective measurement and while my opinion won’t be universally accepted, it is nonetheless my opinion.
I have combined the average member count for 2019 and 2020 and added that to their 2019 crowd figure to give each team an index number. This number is not absolute in determining the most powerful club.
For premierships won, I have included the Broncos’ and Knights’ victories in 1997 as well as the joint-venture teams’ titles won as single entities before they merged. This figure is interesting but didn’t have much influence in my final decision as the Wests Tigers are listed as having 16 titles but that figure is made up of the Balmain Tigers, Western Suburbs Magpies and Wests Tigers.
This list will be built over six articles with three teams featured in each.
The last one will be the team I consider the most powerful NRL club.
Premierships – one
Members – 12,690
Crowds – 14,017
Total – 26,707
The Sharks have never been a glamour team of the NRL and have been battlers for most of their time since joining the big league in 1967.
The only brush with glamour came by way of Andrew Ettingshausen and when Dr Geoffrey Edelsten tried to buy them in the ’80s. With one title to their name, they are the second team of many.
One of the few clubs to own their own ground, they have a massive windfall coming their way as they are redeveloping the adjacent land into high-rises, as well as doing a makeover of the leagues club that is bolted on to the main grandstand.
While not attracting blue-chip sponsors as other teams do, the bottom line has never been strong for the Shire team. Whenever there is talk of a team relocating, the Sharks’ name always comes up.
The peptide scandal and the associated heat that brought did not hold them in good stead at HQ. If you enjoy footy on a Saturday night as opposed to the prime-time slot on Channel Nine, then put on the Sharks jersey and cheer hard.
Premierships – zero
Members – 15,207
Crowds – 15,285
Total – 30,492
The team from Auckland are admired by all in the rugby league community for the sacrifices the are currently making.
The team was founded in 1995 and has enjoyed a strong home-town following. While flying under the radar in terms of their financial clout, they do have a whole nation to themselves when it comes to gathering sponsorship dollars.
They are never a team that has been a big TV draw in Australia and the lack of media coverage they receive makes them way down the pecking order for the most powerful team in the NRL.
Premierships – zero
Members – 7895
Crowds – 11,792
Total – 19,687
The glamour strip has been a graveyard for all the professional teams that have been based on the Gold Coast.
While the region may be the hub of choice for NRL and AFL, the Titans struggle to attract any talent of note.
While the team is now privately owned, they were on life support from the NRL for many years prior to that.
Poor TV ratings, no club support, low sponsorship returns and most pundits death-riding the club all add up to the Titans being the least powerful club in the NRL.