With the latest moves towards the AFL expanding into Tasmania it’s a good time to look at the potential for a 20th team to be added with them.
One place in particular that could be worth considering would be a second team in Brisbane.
Since adding the Gold Coast Suns in the last round of expansion, participation in Queensland has grown considerably, as has investment. This has happened at the same time that people at the NRL are worried about the game’s future in the state.
The AFL’s advance into Queensland clearly has the NRL rattled and is a major driving factor for their interest in establishing a second Brisbane team.
Concerns about the AFL are everywhere.
The Australian has reported ARL Commission chair Peter V’landys as saying: “AFL, to their credit, did a good job last year when they were up there [Brisbane Grand Final due to COVID] – they went into the Department of Education, they have done everything. They have a great strategy. I take my hat off to them. We’re not going to sit back and let Queensland wither on the vine.”
Fox Sports have also reported that head of the Brisbane Jets expansion bid, Nick Livermore, as saying that: “The ARL Commission would be aware of the risk factor of delaying expansion too long, especially with the AFL targeting Brisbane’s western corridor, which is the highest-growing population area in Queensland. We are at risk of losing ground to the AFL, but that [adding a second team] may be a short-term risk we have to take to ensure the game’s stability.”
Brisbane Firehawks bid boss Shane Richardson made similar points, telling SEN: “I really believe what we’ve got to do is take the AFL head on. They [the AFL] have opened up an academy and their operations in Springfield, just west of Ipswich which is the heart of rugby league.”
He went on further, adding: “We need to expand our pathways in Queensland and help the QRL with participation rates, and the battle against the AFL would push that.”
An article on The Roar by expert Curtis Woodward also made clear his concern about the AFL after the construction of their new stadium in Springfield, saying that the “AFL has already got its head in front in what is meant to be a rugby league stronghold.”
These concerns about competition from the AFL border on obsession. The AFL’s push into Queensland has really hit a nerve and perhaps indicates a sense of fragility and weakness in the NRL community due to the AFL’s success.
Given that the A-League and NRL both want second teams in Brisbane; it only makes sense for the AFL to do likewise to really grab a hold of the Queensland market when participation numbers are booming and investment is increasing. It would give the NRL nightmares if they did.
Most of the concern relates to the “Western Corridor”, but the “Northern Corridor” from Moreton Bay up to the Sunshine Coast was rated by the NRL as being just as important to them. The backers of the Dolphins bid have also voiced their own concern about the inroads that the AFL have been making into that region.
A second AFL team could represent either area, but since the Lions have already moved in on Springfield, it might be a better option to go north.
Most games could be played in Brisbane, with a few on the Sunshine Coast in a similar arrangement to the Giants playing in both Western Sydney and Canberra.
That would also help boost the case for a new stadium on the Sunshine Coast, which would be a boon for the region. A small stadium on the Sunshine Coast would also be suitable for AFLW matches, like the one at Springfield.
Brisbane is the only major city in the AFL without a derby. With the Gabba being upgraded for the Brisbane Olympics in 2032 and with a rapidly growing population, it might just be the right time for a second team in Brisbane. Not least to provide a second tenant at the Gabba for the Lions to share the bills with. Mind you, the Lions would pay the biggest share in that equation.
It seems that Tasmania are set to be the 19th team when the competition next expands, with that being the case the AFL should now start planning for who should be the 20th and a second team in Brisbane should be at the forefront of their thinking. They should at least commission a feasibility report into one, like they did with the Tasmanian bid.
Now is the time for the AFL to start their planning.