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Twist in NRL expansion debate as powerbrokers say ‘Aloha!’ to Dirty Reds return bid

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Roar Guru
16th February, 2024
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NRL expansion hopefuls in Perth, Port Moresby and North Sydney have been thrown into disarray by reports that the long-dormant Glebe Dirty Reds are set to throw their hat into the ring to be the NRL’s 18th team.

While a new team in Perth enjoys strong support and could open a new market for the game, the PNG option is backed by the Australian Government and the North Sydney Bears reportedly retain a significant fan base, the Dirty Reds’ bid is expected to erode the support of all other expansion hopefuls.

Sources close to the Dirty Reds have indicated the club was encouraged by the NRL’s recent interest in exploring the American market through the forthcoming fixtures in Las Vegas, with the bid’s impetus gathering pace after recent comments from Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) chair Peter V’landys opened the door to legacy bids.

And while the PNG and Bears’ bids dither over where their teams should be based, the Dirty Reds are set unveil a bold and definitive plan that avoids all the complications of blending a new location with an old team.

Say aloha to the Honolulu Dirty Reds.

The Dirty Reds will probably be forever associated with Glebe in Sydney’s inner-city and the club’s traditional home at Wentworth Park. So, why not take Wentworth Park with them?

Yes, that’s right, the plan is to relocate Wentworth Park to Honolulu where it will form the centrepiece of a new sport and leisure precinct, the Dirty Red Politburo; a ‘Little Glebe’ just a stone’s throw from the city’s tourist hotspots.

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With this master plan, Dirty Reds officials think they’ve got the other bids covered, and they might just be right.

The island of Oahu is home to just under one million people, fewer than Perth but without the AFL, and close to a broader Hawaiian market of about half a million more potential Dirty Reds fanatics.

The USA remains a stable democracy, at least compared to PNG, and investment dollars are rife, so it would be an immensely attractive destination for top-end talent.

There’s no local NFL team, and it’s only a few hours more on the plane compared to the trip from Sydney to Perth.

University of Hawaii quarterback Ikaika Woolsey

University of Hawaii quarterback Ikaika Woolsey throws a pass (Photo: Jack Prichard)

A recent study identified tens of thousands of potential Dirty Reds supporters in Sydney, still seething at the club’s ongoing exclusion from the NRL, poised to provide a strong supporter base in Australia and drive even more tourism for and rugby league awareness in the American market.

The Dirty Reds seem to have all their bases covered and key players in the NRL expansion debate have already taken notice.

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A spokesperson claiming to represent Prime Minister Anthony Albanese addressed rumours of the new expansion bid, stating that “the Albanese Government has made no secret of its support for an NRL team in PNG, but it would be great to see the Dirty Reds in the big league”.

“While PNG is a good fit with the government’s strategic objectives in the Pacific, the Dirty Reds’ proposal would pave the way for a whole-of-Pacific approach to rugby league diplomacy”.

“There’s more detail to work through, but the Government has alerted our AUKUS partners to the Dirty Reds bid and will consider resource allocation in due course”.

Sources near ARLC headquarters in Moore Park told media that upon hearing of the new bid, Mr V’landys told colleagues “Everywhere I go, people ask when are you bringing back the Dirty Reds? I didn’t realise they were a rugby league team”.

Anthony Albanese watches a South Sydney Rabbitohs NRL game at Accor Stadium, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

“They’ve got to be in the equation, and they can certainly be part of a new team, wherever they want, just so long as the Government’s paying for it…”

“Sorry, I mean they’re so passionate and it makes sense that we bring them back in some capacity, because they’ve got thousands of supporters. That’s important”.

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“They did a study and showed they’d bring all these new people to rugby league. That’s vital. You want to bring the casual viewer in to become an engaged fan. The Dirty Reds have got that.”

Glebe were the first team to join the NSWRL in 1908 but were excluded from the competition after the 1928 season following a behind-the-scenes putsch orchestrated by then Balmain Secretary Bob Savage, breaking the hearts of the Dirty Reds’ faithful.

They were premiership finalists in 1911, City Cup winners in 1913 and produced one of rugby league’s 13 Immortals, the great try-scoring back-rower Frank Burge.

87 years after their exclusion, the Dirty Reds were reborn as part of the Glebe-Burwood Wolves and now compete in the Ron Massey Cup, where they’ve been regathering strength and preparing for a belated assault on the NRL.

When contacted (by himself) for comment about the Dirty Reds’ NRL bid, Roar Guru and outspoken proponent of ‘bringing back the Dirty Reds’, David Thompson was typically bullish.

“Look, the data indicates that many of Glebe’s original supporters have left us since 1928, but the club has clearly built a silent mass of supporters,” said Thompson, better known as Redcap.

“Since day one – and mark my words, we’ve been planning this for years – I’ve said we should go back to Glebe and slowly strangle the life out of Balmain and Souths, but apparently the NRL doesn’t consider expansion bids which are mostly about revenge. What can you do?”

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“Perth and PNG will have their day. Norths were bloody useless when they were in the league, so why anybody in their right mind would want to bring that mob back is beyond me”.

“It’s time. Bring back the Dirty Reds. I’ll go to Hawaii if I have to, as long as the old ground is there, and we can still stuff Balmain or whatever they’re called this week. Souths too!”

With the NRL’s current broadcast deal expiring at the end of 2027, bringing the Dirty Reds back exactly 100 years after their exclusion would be fitting.

Can Perth, PNG and the Bears stop the Dirty Reds revival? Good luck to them.

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