NRL Being Left Behind In Expansion Of Australian Sport

The Gold Coast Titans joined the NRL in 2007 at a time when Rugby League was still recovering from the Super League War. At the time the game was terribly underfunded with terrible broadcasting deals in place and a lack of corporate infrastructure holding the game back in a big way.

As we head into 2017 things are very different. Rugby League in Australia has enough money that it has started to build a “war chest” and areas where the game lacked in the past in terms of administration have been addressed in a big way.

The thing is, Rugby League still twiddles its thumbs when it comes to expansion. We still only have 16 clubs and are not even close to having a national competition.

Below is a list of expansion teams that have been announced, and that have played games in national sporting competitions, since the Gold Coast Titans entered the NRL in 2007.

2011 Gold Coast Suns
2012 Western Sydney Giants

A League
2007 Wellington Phoenix
2010 Melbourne City
2012 Western Sydney Wanderers

Australian Baseball League
2010 Adelaide Bite
2010 Brisbane Bandits
2010 Canberra Cavalry
2010 Melbourne Aces
2010 Perth Heat
2010 Sydney Blue Sox

Australian Ice Hockey League
2008 Adelaide Adrenaline
2011 Melbourne Mustangs
2012 Perth Thunder
2014 Canberra Brave

Cricket Big Bash League
2011 Adelaide Strikers
2011 Brisbane Heat
2011 Hobart Hurricanes
2011 Melbourne Renegades
2011 Melbourne Stars
2011 Perth Scorchers
2011 Sydney Sixers
2011 Sydney Thunder

National Rugby Championship
2014 Brisbane City
2014 Canberra Vikings
2014 Country Eagles
2014 Melbourne Rising
2014 Perth Spirit
2014 Queensland Country
2014 Sydney Rays
2014 Western Sydney Rams

Super Rugby
2011 Melbourne Rebels
2013 Port Elizabeth Kings
2016 Tokyo Sunwolves
2016 Buenos Aires Jaguares

I left out Netball simply because the Trans-Tasman Netball League ended in 2016 and the new national competition has not played a game yet. I also left out any announced expansion clubs that have been announced but that are yet to play a game.

When you look at this list and you realise that all of these places did not have representation in the national league, and now they do, it is a little embarrassing for Rugby League in Australia.

The National Rugby League keeps talking about having an NRL team in Perth “One day”, announcing that Perth will host a State Of Origin match in 2019 after hosting a Test Match between Australia and New Zealand a few months ago. However, there is still not concrete announcement that Perth will enter the NRL any time soon.

What are they waiting for?

Perth has a population of 2.04 million people. If you can capture just a tiny fraction of that population and turn it into a customer base, you’re set!

Adelaide never even gets a mention when it comes to expansion talk in the NRL. Adelaide has a population of 1.3 million people. Think about that for a second…the NRL isn’t even thinking about expanding into a market of 1.3 million potential customers right on its own doorstep.

As you can see with the list above, other competitions in Australia have no issues with aggressively moving into expansion areas and looking to grab a share of the market. For Rugby League in Australia, we as a sport are willing to sit back and let 3.4 million potential customers just be gobbled up by other sports.

It is unbelievable…

The NRL has the money to expand. Broadcasters are desperate for content. The player base is there to expand the competition. What is Rugby League waiting for?

AFL, Baseball, Cricket, Ice Hockey, Rugby Union and Soccer have no problems expanding their national competitions. How many of those sports would love to have the resources that the NRL has at their fingertips.

So I ask again, what are we waiting for? What is the golden switch that needs to be flipped for the NRL to just decide to have an expansion club added to the competition by a certain date? What great event are we waiting for that will signal that “the time is right” before we make a move within Australia on a markets that total over 3 million people?

The National Rugby League is being left behind. Every season that they wait allows all the sports listed above to establish themselves just a little bit more. It allows them to develop habits in their fan bases. It allows them to grow their product in new markets.

Meanwhile the NRL just talks about “one day”.

Todd Greenberg and the Australian Rugby League commission can attend all the functions and events they like. They can give vague promises to people, talk about the distant future, and get the hopes up of all the people they like. None of it matters until the National Rugby League actually gets up off its arse and does something that results the NATIONAL being put into the National Rugby League.

If all of the competitions above can get the job done, why can’t the National Rugby League?

Maybe the people involved in running Rugby League in Australia are the problem…

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