To understand the looming migraine around NRL expansion, and where to precisely place Brisbane’s second team to challenge the Broncos, consider the strategic thinking of the code’s recent decision-makers.
Former NRL CEO David Gallop was keen to expand to Brisbane’s western belt at Ipswich, the home of Broncos legends Allan Langer and Kevin Walters.
Former ARL Commission chairman Peter Beattie had his eyes on Redcliffe, the peninsula powerhouse that represents Brisbane’s version of Manly on Sydney’s northern beaches.
Now, Beattie’s successor, new chair Peter V’landys, is reportedly impressed with the bid by the Brisbane Bombers, who have held regular clandestine meetings with Storm super coach Craig Bellamy.
Privately, Gallop detested the Bombers name. In a sport that thrives on gladiatorial combat, he argued it was too aggressive. Work that one out. We can only presume Gallop would have preferred a new Brisbane team to be called the Flamingoes, Fairies or Powderpuffs.
Regardless of the nickname, the key for the ARLC and NRL boss Todd Greenberg is to nail the geographic birthplace of the NRL’s 17th team _ or risk decades of disaster.
The potential pitfall facing the code is the very posse of heavy-hitters who will decide on likely expansion into Queensland for 2023 have very little understanding of … the Queensland market itself.
The NRL is largely a Sydney-centric beast. Ten of the 16 clubs, more than 60 per cent of the NRL competition, are based in NSW.
Many of the code’s narratives are shaped around what suits the Sydney clubs. For too long, the ARLC and NRL bosses have fretted over the financial demands of impoverished Sydney clubs, all the while missing the goldmine that exists in the Brisbane metropolitan market.
Brisbane’s Gross Regional Product, the measure of goods and services sold in a specific region, is an estimated $171 billion.
That is a staggering figure that paints the Brisbane metro market as a financial juggernaut.
Factor in 2.4 million residents in the Brisbane region – as opposed to 210,000 in Ipswich and 459,585 in Redcliffe’s wider Moreton Bay catchment – and the expansion argument for V’landys and Greenberg should be a no-contest.
“The NRL and the broadcasters need a Brisbane city team, not regional outposts,” Bombers shareholder Craig Davison said.
“No disrespect to Redcliffe and Ipswich, but they are regional areas. That’s the reality when you look at population numbers and corporate strength.
“World sport shows the power of the duopoly effect of two teams in one city.
“The English Premier League has Manchester United and Manchester City. The AFL has two teams in Adelaide, Perth and Sydney.
“Imagine an intercity rivalry in Brisbane with the Broncos. It would be a money-spinner for all concerned in the game.”
Ipswich chief Steve Johnson argues the western-corridor region will better service the NRL’s grassroots.
“The fact is our region has more registered players than Brisbane and we have nearly 30 per cent of all Queensland players,” Johnson said.
“We will grow crowd numbers, add TV viewers and bring new sponsors to the game, all while being a valuable contributing member of the community.
Bombers Director Nick Livermore scoffed at calls for a second Brisbane team in Redcliffe.
“The Brisbane metro market is the largest commercial hub between Sydney and Singapore. That’s a reality,” Livermore said.
“To suggest the Broncos have even saturated the greater Brisbane region is a complete fallacy.
“Redcliffe are an incredibly strong brand in the Intrust Super Cup, but an NRL Dolphins team will alienate most of Brisbane. Will Easts Tigers, Wynnum Manly and Norths Devils fans back them? I doubt it.
“If Redcliffe play the Wests Tigers on a wet Suncorp Stadium on a Thursday night, how many fans are the Dolphins going to get?
“This is the most confident I have been of the NRL expanding by 2023. Peter V’landys is by far the most capable chair that has come onto the ARL Commission and when Peter has a vision for something, based on his track record, he achieves his goals.
“If he wants another team in Brisbane, I would back Peter in to succeed.”
Let’s just hope PVL doesn’t need a Refidex to get his bearings on Brisbane.
Source: Courier Mail