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The Roar


NRL News: Surprise new expansion bid launched, Walker holds out hope for Origin, Dragons confident Hunt will stay

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17th May, 2023

History, heritage, a shiny new stadium and financial backing to rival the Broncos are behind Brisbane Tigers’ fight to become the NRL’s 18th team.

The 106-year-old club on Wednesday officially launched its bid to become the fifth Queensland NRL team, two years after their Firehawks campaign was pipped by Redcliffe’s Dolphins.

This time the Tigers, known as Easts until their 2020 name change, will lean into their rich Brisbane rugby league history. 

And their beefed-up bid has the added backing of a $10 million upgrade of their Langlands Park base just outside the city’s CBD.

It’s understood the consortium is open to a name change to avoid a clash with Sydney’s Wests Tigers, but that the Firehawks name is unlikely to be reprised.

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys is keen to add an 18th team as early as 2027 as part of a new TV rights deal, with an Australian government-backed Pasifika franchise based in Cairns one contender already floated.

A second New Zealand-based, a Perth option and the return of the North Sydney Bears are other potential options.


But the Tigers’ bid chairman Shane Edwards said the Dolphins’ successful arrival at NRL level proved another Brisbane team was needed.

The southside club would provide a cross-river rival to the Broncos while also looking to capture the growing west of the city towards Ipswich.

And the bid has the backing of the Easts Leagues Club juggernaut, while there are two more stages of development planned for a home ground that will host NRLW games later this year.

“South-east Queensland fans are craving more high quality rugby league, with our four existing Queensland-based teams still leaving our fans wanting more,” Edwards said.

Edwards said the bid was backed by a strong balance sheet, assets and a financial forecast to rival the Broncos and Dolphins.

“Suncorp Stadium has the capacity to support another NRL team,” he said. 

“This year’s 27 rounds of the regular season will see nine weekends where no game is played at Lang Park.


“With the strong attendance and audience figures we are seeing the Dolphins achieve in their debut year, we believe the Brisbane Tigers can provide a similar stimulus in the south-west corridor that takes in the Logan and Ipswich regions.”

Broncos coach Kevin Walter tried to laugh off the latest Queensland expansion effort before agreeing the long-standing club’s bid had merit.

“How many do they want? I’m still getting over Redcliffe coming in,” he said.

“In fairness to the Tigers they’ve been a strong club for a long time, a lot of history and heritage at the Tigers.

“And I’m sure we could accommodate 10 teams here (in Queensland). People just love their footy so much.

“They’ve proved that with the Dolphins coming in. (If) another team comes in, bring it on, let’s go.”

Cody holds out hope for Origin recall


Throughout a life and NRL career spent defying the odds, Cody Walker has learned better than to give up hope of a fairytale State of Origin recall.

But the South Sydney five-eighth insists a fifth NSW cap is not on his mind as the days tick down to Brad Fittler’s squad announcement for the series opener.

Walker, 33, is the outsider in a three-horse race against Penrith’s Jarome Luai and Cronulla captain Nicho Hynes, both of whom have designs on clinching the NSW five-eighth spot for the best-of-three series that begins on May 31.

Luai’s man-of-the-match performance against the Sydney Roosters last week catapulted him into five-eighth favouritism, his incumbency and long-standing chemistry with Blues halfback Nathan Cleary also playing into his hand.

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Hynes has been tipped as a chance for selection on the bench, having first established himself in the NRL as Melbourne’s “Mr Fix-It” from the interchange.

Walker is therefore a good chance to miss out when Fittler names his team after round 12, despite a strong patch of form coinciding with the ladder-leading Rabbitohs’ six-game winning streak.


“I haven’t had much thought about (Origin selection), to be fair,’ he said.

“I try to stay out of the papers as you know, I don’t necessarily like to put my face out there.

“I’ve grown up watching (Origin) on TV and doing all those sort of things, so if it got to a point where I got the call, I’m happy to put my hand up. 

Cody Walker of the Blues celebrates after scoring

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

“But I think it’s hard to ignore the form of a guy like Nicho Hynes, and Jarome had a fantastic game on the weekend. It’s hard to ignore that club combination (with Cleary). I get it.”

But Walker is accustomed to underdog status, having spent four years on a development contract with Gold Coast and switching clubs three times before making his NRL debut in 2016.

Now one of the league’s craftiest playmakers and an Origin player between 2019 and 2020, Walker will never write himself off.


“If you look at my story, you never really give up hope in any situation, do you?” he said.

“I debuted late at 26. Who would’ve thought at that age that I would have played four Origins and done all the things I’ve done? I never even think about giving up on anything. 

“That’s probably been the highlight of my journey, is that I’ve never given up. I’ve always had that belief and that resilience in me to just keep plugging along.”

Walker and his Rabbitohs are preparing to face Parramatta on Friday night for Indigenous Round, which the five-eighth declared a fitting time to reflect on his journey against the odds.

“It’s amazing that it’s Indigenous Round because you draw inspiration from what our people have gone through over the last couple of hundred years,” he said.

“It’s ingrained in me that you don’t give up, you show resilience, you show strength. I’ve been taught that from a very young age.”

Dragons confident Hunt won’t leave


St George Illawarra are confident Ben Hunt won’t follow axed coach Anthony Griffin out the door, adamant the star halfback wants to find success at the NRL club.

Dragons bosses fronted a pre-planned member’s forum on Tuesday night in Wollongong, just hours after making the call to sack Griffin mid-season.

Amid a 90-minute long grilling from fans, chairman Andrew Lancaster told members the club was in search of a new coach who could lead the Dragons for the next 10 years.

TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 13: Dragons coach Anthony Griffin looks on after losing the round 11 NRL match between North Queensland Cowboys and St George Illawarra Dragons at Qld Country Bank Stadium on May 13, 2023 in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Dragons coach Anthony Griffin looks on after losing the round 11 clash with the Cowboys. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Chief executive Ryan Webb and football boss Ben Haran also answered questions, with a heavy focus on the club’s long absence from finals football and junior development.

Multiple questions from the 50 members in attendance and close to 700 online also surrounded the future of Hunt, who last year re-signed until the end of 2025.

The Dragons captain has been a staunch defender of Griffin and indicated last month he did not want to start life under a new coach this late in his career.


But Webb is confident he will not be agitating to leave the Dragons after the club last year knocked back a request to have a clause in the half’s contract tied to Griffin’s job.

“There are no ratchet clauses in contracts that are associated with contracts,” Webb told members in Wollongong. 

“Ben is like all our players, he is frustrated because he wants to win. That’s what he wants to see.”

Haran was also blunt when quizzed on whether the club’s halfback would be leaving the club.

“I certainly won’t have him go anywhere,” Haran said.

“Ben’s frustrated. We’re all frustrated from the results. You want to win. Ben wants to win. 

“You see the way Ben plays. You don’t play 300 games if you don’t care about winning. That is why he is frustrated. 


(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

“We have regular conversations with Ben … He is getting brought on with everything and he just wants to get out there and win on Friday night (against the Roosters).”

Haran said players had been shocked by the board’s decision to sack Griffin early on Tuesday morning, ending months of speculation around his future.

But Lancaster said the move marked a transformative day for the club, while conceding his board was accountable for the club’s on-field demise under Griffin.

And while the club is aiming to announce a new coach out of Jason Ryles, Ben Hornby or Dean Young within weeks, the chairman said he would not be rushed on the decision.

“It’s about doing our due diligence, it’s about identifying someone that is not going to be there just for a couple of years,” Lancaster said. “(We want) someone who is going to be there for short, medium and long-term success. 

“It would be great to have the same coach in 10 years time.”


Lancaster also confirmed the Dragons were eying changes which would stop the chairman swapping each year under a 2018 agreement between joint-owners St George and WIN.

And Webb also revealed Jack Bird was “disciplined” over comments made last week which suggested fans had no idea about football while defending then-coach Griffin.