Few words can describe the Broncos’ season.
They stand at second-to-last following their eighth straight loss and remain a likely contender for the dreaded wooden spoon.
It’s poor timing, with AFL counterpart the Lions in peak form and Brisbane hosting the grand final in October. To some Twitter users, it should also put to bed plans for another Brisbane team.
It’s an ignorant viewpoint. Not only is 2020 one bad season following 30 years of success (this will be the third time they’ve missed finals since ‘91) but their decline instead demonstrates the need to give rugby league heartland another team to get behind.
While anything could happen with the Broncos in the next few seasons, they can’t expect to return to the premiership mix immediately. I also don’t expect them to repeat their past finals-making record for a long time.
Brisbane is a city of 2.5 million people and a long-time stomping ground of rugby league. Every Lang Park match produces an astounding atmosphere – whether it’s the Broncos, the Maroons, or the national team. The game is a part of Brisbane’s lifeblood.
To deny the city premiership contention every year and a home game every week would be a mistake on the NRL’s part.
Thankfully, the NRL has all but guaranteed their next team will be in Brisbane, which only leaves the question of that team’s identity.
While the NRL has no guaranteed expansion plans yet, four consortia stand ready to put their hands up.
Three are the brainchildren of existing Queensland Cup teams and another is a bold business case going by the name Brisbane Bombers.
— Brisbane Bombers (@bnebombers) June 22, 2020
The Bombers have been gunning for inclusion into the NRL since their 2011 establishment and make a compelling case, at least from a financial viewpoint. The bid bases itself on a slick “Battle of Brisbane” approach, and boasts a powerful list of partners that surprisingly includes the Nine Network.
But the one thing they lack is the historical connection between the brand and rugby league, and the fan passion that drives it.
Nothing meaningful lies behind the Bombers’ name when it comes to rugby league. Indeed, the Bombers moniker already belongs to AFL foundation club Essendon.
Brisbane Bombers can’t build a loyal, passionate fan-base the way Essendon and other AFL and NRL clubs have. It’s a manufactured brand, not a club, and only has stylish marketing to back it.
A Bombers outfit would be competing with a powerhouse club more than 30 years old over Brisbane’s catchment area, with a brand that means nothing to most of the city.
Only with long-term commitment and a premiership could they establish themselves as a respectable club, but the short-term pain may not be worth it.
Compare that to the other three bids. The Redcliffe Dolphins need no explanation. The Western Corridor bid is Ipswich Jets-backed and considering an Indigenous name that represents the Brisbane region. The Brisbane Firehawks are Easts Tigers-driven and their moniker comes from the Australian firehawk raptors that deliberately light fires to draw out prey.
All three of them have something that outweighs Bombers in the culture department. Culture can’t be bought but goes a long way towards building a passionate fan-base.
The Dolphins are the best option for expansion. They boast 73 years of history, six Queensland Cup titles, a leagues club that posts $30 million in revenue annually, and a brand strong enough to take legal action against the 2006 Gold Coast expansion bid.
But according to Bombers shareholder Nick Livermore, a Redcliffe team is “destined to fail” because it only represents a small part of Brisbane. Livermore argues a metro-based club that appeals to all of Brisbane will be a successful one.
Fair point, since any future Brisbane team will play out of Lang Park. To draw reasonable home crowds there, the new team must extend its appeal across the River City.
In fact, why not call them the River City Dolphins? It’s exclusively Brisbane without calling itself Brisbane. It fits with the dolphin theme. And revolving itself around the Dolphin motif could attract supporters from not just Redcliffe but all across Brisbane.
There’s your metro Brisbane team, Nick. And with passion to boot.