The Roar
The Roar


Already in the name: Why sending the Tigers west makes the best sense for NRL expansion

Autoplay in... 6 (Cancel)
Up Next No more videos! Playlist is empty -
Roar Guru
7th March, 2024
2078 Reads

With most of the media’s focus on the NRL’s recent move to take over America, it’s important to remember that they still haven’t taken over Australia. Despite its official name having an N in the title, it’s national in name alone.

Yet for some strange reason, there’s talk of new teams from PNG and New Zealand. The obvious question needs to be asked then, why don’t they want to expand in Australia?

PNG is a dangerous place if you take a look at Smart Traveller and will be dependent on massive Australian government handouts, which could be taken away. Then there’s the problem of local support for a FIFO team that will be based in Cairns (840km away) or Brisbane (2092km away) but fly into Port Moresby just for matches before leaving again, as Justin Olam has raised concerns over. It’s also worth pointing out that Olam “remains the only player to have come through the PNG Hunters pathway and go on to play in the NRL” (ESPN).

As for a team in Wellington or Christchurch, it would have even more problems than Auckland does right now, with the pull of Auckland for the best players being a significant additional challenge. Not to mention that NZRL have themselves said that a second NZ team isn’t viable and isn’t a priority for them. As for population, Adelaide is three times the size of either and has a rectangular stadium, unlike Wellington.

Expanding the NRL needs to happen locally, in new markets.

First up, the Wests Tigers should be moved to Perth to become the West Coast Tigers. It has recently been reported that their interim CEO Shane Richardson has admitted that they have been inflating membership numbers by declaring non-paying juniors. As he told the club’s own Behind The Roar podcast (not affiliated with The Roar): “We’re the lowest paying membership club in the Sydney area. We’ve been including 9000 juniors who don’t pay at all, so there is no income to the club, and we’ve been declaring we have 20,000 members but we haven’t got 20,000 members.”


(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Essentially the Tigers only have around half the number of paying members that they were actually declaring, with that base split between the Inner West and the South West areas of Sydney. Then there’s discussion of a move to Liverpool to find new fans and a better stadium than Leichhardt. They add very little to the NRL and should be the first go-to option for a team to be relocated to Perth.

Next up, the North Sydney Bears should become the Adelaide Bears. This will take the league to 18 teams and will cover each of the five major capitals, thus making it truly the NRL. While the Adelaide market is smaller than Perth, it is still a city of 1.3 million people. If the Rams had stayed around for longer instead of being lost during the Super League War they might be drawing good crowds today based on their crowd average of 15,300 in their first season.

After Perth and Adelaide, two more teams could come in to make it 20 teams all up. The best options are Sunshine Coast and Tasmania, which are the next two largest markets in Australia.

The Sunshine Coast is crying out for a team and will have a perfect stadium once the upgrade is complete. With a decent-sized and rapidly growing population, as well as rivalries with three other nearby teams in the Broncos, Dolphins and Titans; the Falcons will be successful immediately and will help balance the distribution of teams between New South Wales and Queensland.

Finally, a team in Tasmania could actually make a lot of sense.


The current AFL bid is facing strong opposition due to the cost of the new stadium, which is budgeted for $715 million but could easily go over a billion dollars. Compare that to the $170 million cost of a rectangular stadium for the A-League bid, which would be just $85 million if split 50/50 between state and federal governments. Then if you split that 50/50 between the A-League and NRL then it’s just $42.5 million per team, which is excellent value.

The bid itself has a stadium deal which would have a breakeven figure of 5000 per match, but with a second tenant to split the bills it could be just half that. In fact, it would be cheaper for Tasmania to have teams in both the A-League and NRL than it would be to have just one AFL team. Two for the price of one.

Victoria is already a captive market as a source of tourists to Tasmania, so an NRL team could help generate new exposure for Tasmania in Sydney which hasn’t been targeted as much. A joint A-League and NRL bid, offers significant advantages over the rival AFL bid. As for the name, they could be called something new like the Vikings to tap into the Queen Mary connection, or they could link up with Newtown and call themselves the Jets.

So that’s how the NRL should expand. It’s a simple plan, but a good one. It’ll also save the NRL a lot of time working it out for themselves when they can just follow my advice above.

I honestly don’t know why they’d need to do their own research.