The NRL will go ahead with a 17th team in 2023 after a $50 million surplus and future broadcast deal boosts reported to club chiefs in a crucial meeting on Thursday.
While there was no official call made, club bosses left the Zoom conference under no doubt a new side will be added and announced by the end of the month to ensure the winning bid can pursue recruitment targets from November 1.
There was also no deal reached on further assistance to clubs, who expect a boost despite there being an extra slice in the pie.
It’s understood club bosses were told the NRL is close to securing a new free-to-air deal with the Nine Network, while Foxtel has also agreed to a five-year, $100 million deal to fund an expanded competition.
AAP understands Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) chief Peter V’landys addressed the meeting as if expansion was a formality and there was little resistance from club land.
The well-established Redcliffe Dolphins are in the box seat to win what has become a three-horse race with the Brisbane Easts-backed Firehawks and the Brisbane Jets.
Home games will be played out of Suncorp Stadium, offering the Brisbane Broncos a cross-town rival and Queensland a fourth club.
The move would be the NRL’s biggest since the Gold Coast Titans were introduced in 2007.
The expansion’s assessment committee will now meet once more to determine which club gets their tick of approval, before it is officially endorsed by the ARLC.