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Exclusive: 'We want $1 billion'- V'landy's bullish vision of expansion, new Cup comp and staggering wealth

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14th March, 2024
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Love him or hate him, admire him or fear him, there is little doubt Peter V’landys is one of the great leaders in the history of Australian sport, a man with the vision to dream in technicolour and the drive to turn ideas into reality.

It was almost six years to the day the Racing NSW supremo joined the ARL Commission and he took the reins 18 months later.

Over that time we have seen the introduction of the six-again rule and the two-point field goal, a complete overhaul to encourage short restarts and a sustained attack on high shots.

Off the field the NRL has built up an asset base, broken into the American market, expanded the NRL to 17 teams and NRLW to ten sides and signed off on a new CBA, to say nothing of the NRL being the first major sporting organisation in the world to return to play during the Covid pandemic.

Much of the change has been driven by the irrepressible V’landys. So what is next? Where is the game headed? What will the NRL and rugby league as a whole look like over the next decade?

“It will be an entertaining sport that has a massive fanbase that has a million-dollar asset base with 20 teams with a footprint in the Pacific and having broken into the American market,” V’Landys told The Roar.

“You follow it. You are part of a tribe. You want to be entertained. It is all about the fan. It is all about their needs. That is why we have made the rule changes. The fan is critical.”


That is certainly the central mantra from V’landys and the NRL, and will continue to be the driving force behind the strategic changes and innovations the game makes over the next decade and there is plenty on the roadmap and plenty of areas the high-octane V’landys wants to impact while holding the reins.

“Tastes change with every generation. You need to keep up with those trends,” V’landys said, balancing the short-term wants of fans with the long-term strategic shaping of the game to keep it relevant, sustainable and entertaining.

Expansion. Conquering the globe. Making the women’s game fully professional. A cup competition. Potentially a draft. There is plenty on the horizon over the next ten years.


If he gets his way – and he does more often than not – then we will see the NRL not only return to a 20-team format for the first time in over a quarter-century but be matched by a women’s competition with the same number of sides.

“The key factor we look at is who can bring new fans to the game,” V’landys said.


“The Dolphins brought new fans in. This is what we will want from other new teams. New fans, naturally, interest the broadcasters.”

Will the Dolphins crack the top eight in 2024? (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Papua New Guinea has certainly been one area mooted for an expansion franchise and while this has certainly been driven by both the Australian and American governments, V’Landys sees it as both a huge opportunity for the game and for the country.

“Soft diplomacy is important but the country has 18 million people,” he said.

“That’s a big market for us to be able to get new participants, get new fans. Rugby league can not only benefit but can help lift education standards, help bring communities together. They are already in love with the game.”

New Zealand is another area that could well be looking at an expansion team though it won’t be the heavily mooted Wellington with V’landys committing to leaving the North Island to the Warriors.

“New Zealand is an important area for us and the Warriors have been a marketing machine over there,” he added.


“We certainly wouldn’t be looking at anything on the North Island but if opportunities arose on the South Island, we would look at them.”

The women’s game

The growth in women’s sport over the last five years has been exponential. The NRL were on this early and the NRLW is one of the most supported women’s competitions in Australia with just under 800,000 viewers watching last year’s Grand Final.

“One thing that pleases me about rugby league is how good our female players are,” V’landys said.

“The skill level is extraordinary and how they’ve developed into the players that they are in such a short period of time is mind-boggling. They are brilliant.

“My mission is to make sure every NRL club fields an NRLW equivalent so in ten years you will have 20 NRLW teams playing a full season with women fully professional.

“The women’s game has the most potential of any area.”



He is bullish about the opportunities that will arise from venturing to the United States.

“We are opening doors for all Australian sports by attacking the American market,” he said.

“There are 340 million people over there. There’s only 26 million in Australia. That creates significant revenue opportunities.

“It is all about revenue. Success will be determined by how much revenue we generate. It all flows on from there.

“Cronulla just signed a $5 million sponsorship because an Australian who lives in America saw us take the product to America. Gaining fans, sports betting, opening up competitions, getting new owners…it has unlimited potential.”



One area V’landys has not only narrowed the divide with the AFL in but has surpassed their influence in is that of politics and that is unlikely to change anytime soon.

V’landys understands power better than most and will not shy away from taking full advantage of having a league-loving Prime Minister among other influential powerbrokers.

 Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Papua New Guinean Prime Minister James Marape and Coach Mal Meninga of Australia pose for a photo with the players from both teams before the International match between Australian Men's PMs XIII and PNG Men's PMs XIII at Suncorp Stadium on September 25, 2022 in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Papua New Guinean Prime Minister James Marape and Coach Mal Meninga of Australia pose for a photo with the players from both teams before the International match between Australian Men’s PMs XIII and PNG Men’s PMs XIII in 2022. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

“It is imperative for the game to have support from those in key positions,” said V’landys .

“Government decisions affect everyone. Having someone like Anthony Albanese as Prime Minister who lives and breathes rugby league, it is invaluable.

“He has assisted us with America. He has assisted us with Papua New Guinea and the Pacific. He can open doors that no one else can.”



Few understand the perilous financial situation the game was in when Covid hit but since then V’landys has made it his top priority to build a sustainable financial base for the NRL to ensure the game is never endangered again – and that will not cease.

“In a crisis, you need to have money to back you up,” he said.

“During Covid, all we had was cash and most of that was already allocated. We had three-to-four months of cash left.

“We learned we needed to have assets and financial resources. We want to have $300 million in this cycle but we want to get that up to $1 billion as soon as possible.”

Sports betting

Like most major sports, the NRL is heavily reliant on wagering dollars and some of the more extreme proposed changes to the landscape are clearly going to be met with opposition from the NRL.

“We are not opposed to restrictions in advertising around when kids watch games. [Some of the recommendations though] are a step too far,” said the ARLC chair.


“Sport does rely on [wagering] revenue and it will have an impact on sports. That revenue will need to be replaced.

“The majority of people can bet and do so without having a problem. We should be helping the small portion that do rather than taking away the benefits from the rest.”


Under V’landys stewardship, the gap in professionalism and astuteness in the administration of the AFL and NRL has narrowed and that shows no signs of abating with V’Landys fearless when it comes to competing with the one-time big dog of Australian sport.

“Competition is healthy,” he said. “I like [the AFL] making big statements, even though some of them are ridiculous.

“The more pressure they put on us, the better it will be because we will reciprocate. We will match them in whatever they do. We welcome the competition. It does not scare me.”

The Dally M medal


While there have been calls to change the format of the Dally M Medal to give it a greater standing in the game, to improve judging and to allow wagering on it, fundamental changes should not be expected anytime soon.

“No, there won’t be any changes,” he confirmed.

“The wagering…is not much. It is not a material amount. There are too many risks and potential for reputational damage to allow betting on it.”


While there have been major concerns about officiating performances for a long time, particularly from those in the Bunker, the chairman is happy with the direction refereeing is going, particularly in its use of technology.

“The Bunker generates unwarranted publicity,” V’landys said.

“98% of the time, the Bunker gets it right but everyone focuses on the 2% it does not.


“Humans make mistakes. Nobody ever wraps the Bunker when it gets every try correct. We’ve got topline referees in the Bunker now and they are making a lot fewer mistakes.”

Player draft

The success Penrith has had bringing a significant number of talented juniors through has again raised the prospect of a player draft but while the NRL would look at it, V’landys acknowledged it could not happen without RLPA buy-in.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - AUGUST 10: Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter Vlandys speaks to the media during a NRL media opportunity at Rugby League Central on August 10, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

“We’d love [a player draft] but you have to balance that with what the players want and the RLPA believes it is a restriction of trade,” V’landys said.

“I understand the RLPA’s position as well as the fans’ position. We will work with the RLPA in the coming years to come up with a better system.”


Cup competition

The premiership has not had a knock-out cup competition since 1995 but fans can expect to see it revived soon as those of Central Western NSW celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the famous Western Division side that won the 1974 Amco Cup

“We are very keen on [getting one established]”, V’landys said.

“We will look at this over the next couple of years. It brings in new revenues. It gives broadcasters more content.”


While the NRL continues to grow, it will not lose touch with its roots when it comes to stadiums with the NRL to remain committed to suburban grounds.

“We are very focused on suburban grounds,” said V’landys .


“They are not only a rugby league ground but they are a community asset. Look at CommBank. It is the right size ground and it pays for itself. We have had four straight sellouts there.

The Man Himself

While V’landys has a vision for how the game will look a decade down the track, he does not plan to be there himself.

“No, I definitely won’t be there in 2034,” V’landys laughed.

“I hope I’m alive that long. I want to leave the game in the healthiest possible position and when that happens “

The NRL is on the most positive trajectory of any sport in Australia – and the game shows no sign of slowing down, at least with V’landys at the wheel.