When ever I read about a concept that I initially hate the sound of, I stop reacting. I stop reacting and start to actually think about things from the other side of the argument.
News today that the NRL is starting to openly talk about moving the Newcastle Knights, a club they own, to Ipswich in Queensland is one of those topics where I had to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective.
The Knights have struggled financially for, well, just about forever in Newcastle. The club in its current form is an absolute mess. The club struggles to bring any decent players to the club, their best juniors get to first grade and then rarely ever seem to kick on, and their management is flat out the worst in the NRL.
How long do you persist with an NRL club in a place where things just never seem to work out?
This is a question that a lot of NRL clubs will have to answer, and some are better and answering this question than others.
A second Brisbane based team is a priority for the NRL. It helps television ratings in Queensland which has a flow on effect in helping boost the price of broadcasting rights for the entire game. It is criminal that Brisbane, the second biggest Rugby League city in the world in terms of popularity of the game, only has one team.
Any NRL club that moves to Brisbane would find it has an embarrassment of riches on hand. Sponsors will flock to a second Brisbane team. The Brisbane Broncos have talked about needing to turn away sponsors because there is only so much they can do to service their current sponsors, so a second club would be one of the better funded in the entire competition.
Being able to use Suncorp Stadium would be huge for any club that moves to Brisbane. You can offer supporters of your club some of the best facilities in Australia, with ease of access and without question the best game viewing experience for Rugby League in the world.
You could probably list 10 clubs that would be better off for moving to Brisbane tomorrow, such is the strength of the argument.
So, should the Knights be moved? No. Never. Never, ever!
The Knights great strengths are overwhelming, and to big to walk away from.
To say that Knights supporters are loyal is an understatement. Even as the club has lurched from one disaster to another, Knights supporters have kept turning up to games.
Knights supporters have seen one bad administration take over the next, to the point where the current administration is nothing short of a write off. Still, Knights supporters will turn up on game day, and you have to commend them for that.
The Knights other huge strength is their junior base, which turns out a huge amount of raw talent that, with a good club to feed into, can produce test players on a regular basis.
If you can get the Knights running well, they turn into one of our very best pure Rugby League clubs. They will always struggle for corporate dollars, but that is what revenue sharing is for.
The Knights playing in Newcastle is an asset to Rugby League, and I don’t think anyone, least of all the NRL, really wants to see them move.
The interesting thing in all of this is that the NRL is even sounding out the move. It makes you wonder, are there plans in place if another club decides it wants to head to Queensland? How quickly could a club make that move? What would need to happen for a club to get to a point where the wheels start rolling and momentum is too hard to stop?
If the Knights had their current issues and they were based in Sydney, forget it, they’d be moving to Brisbane.
How many Sydney based clubs right now are at least in the same conversation in terms of struggling at the same level with the Newcastle Knights?
I think my Penrith Panthers are a perfect example. Before the club had its big turn around, they were basically in the same position at the Knights but with an even bigger junior Rugby League base.
The Panthers struggled for money, didn’t receive the same loyalty from the supporter base, they only turned out test players through sheer weight of numbers they dealt with, and were probably closer to folding completely than most people realise.
Thankfully, the Panthers turned things around. Like the Knights, the fact that they service an incredible junior Rugby League base is an asset to the entire game. Still, you go back 8 seasons and the argument to move the Panthers is pretty strong!
If Parramatta were not such an iconic club based in the geographical heart of Sydney, would they be on the move? Do you look at the Dragons, who owe the NRL a lot of money, and start to consider relocating them? The Wests Tigers are partly under the control of the NRL, do they get considered for relocation? Go back just 3 years, you’d be hard pressed to come up with a reason why you shouldn’t relocate the 2016 NRL Champions in the Cronulla Sharks.
It is a devastating question to put to any supporter base, but it is one I think pretty much every Sydney based club will be faced with at some point. The key is for every club to build something for itself, to cement its place in the competition, and to have one key asset that the NRL simply can not walk away from.
For the Knights, they have their supporters and their junior base. The NRL would never be able to walk away from Newcastle because of those two things.
Does your club have assets the NRL simply could not walk away from? Don’t just react to the question, take a step back and look at it from another perspective…
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com