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An Alternate History

Hartwood

Juniors
Messages
38
Theoretically, if you were in charge of the NSWRL during 1980s, how would you have planned your expansion of the game?

Going back to 1982, the Canberra Raiders, the first expansion side in the NSWRL was founded, along with the VFL's first expansion side, the Sydney Swans.



1981 NSWRFL current teams

Eastern Suburbs

Newtown

South Sydney

Penrith

Manly-Warringah

North Sydney

Parramatta

Canterbury-Bankstown

St George

Western Suburbs

Balmain

Cronulla

Teams that were introduced in 1982

Illawarra

Canberra


Firstly, obviously way too many Sydney sides here, the NRL would eventually solve this issue in the '90s and '00s with half baked 'mergers'.

Using a bit of hindsight, but being reasonable, here's what I would have done:

How 1982 should have been

Eastern Suburbs/Sydney City Roosters

The Roosters would remain as the main eastern suburbs side

South Sydney Rabbitohs
I would have ideally booted Souths, as it seems unnecessary to have two sides based out of Eastern Sydney, however the NRL would eventually try this in 2000 and it didn't go well. Most Souths fans live out west so maybe they could play in parra or blacktown or smthn idk

Parramatta Eels
Second most supported Sydney team in the large region

Macarthur Magpies
The Western Suburbs Magpies would rebrand as the Macarthur magpies, Wests eventually moved to Campbelltown in 1987 anyway so I'm just making the transition smoother

St George Dragons
Taking in the Southern Sydney region

Illawarra Sharks
Southern Sydney is too small for two teams, NSWRL obviously wanted a team in Illawarra. I would expect this team would evetually merge with St George, just as the Steelers did

Penrith Panthers

North Sydney Bears

Incorporating the entire North Sydney region

Gosford Sea-Eagles
Similar situation as the Illawarra Sharks, probably unsustainable, would probably merge with North Sydney

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Not sure how neccessary Canterbury would be because I don't know much about Sydney geography

Canberra Tigers
Tigers to Canberra

Brisbane Past Brothers Leprechauns
Two Brisbane sides introduced, both Brisbane city BRL teams. Rugby league already has a deep history in Brisbane, so using BRL teams rather than a bid team or relocation means that the team already has a supporter base and a history within the city. Leprechauns is an original name that is rarely used in sport, unlike the generic, American "Broncos"

Fortitude Valley Diehards

Create a rivalry with the 'chauns, another great original name. Would have to change their colours so they don't clash with the next side

Melbourne Jets
If the VFL can get a team in Sydney by 1982, then there can be a professional rugby league side in Melbourne as well. Jets got booted in 1983 anyway, might as well move them to Melbourne. Hipster Suburb team into Hipster city


Future Expansions
In order of priority

Auckland Warriors

Western Reds

NQ Razerbacks

Cowboys is a dumb American name

Adelaide Rams

Gold Coast Dolphins
Titans is also not a great name, atleast it isn't American sounding, Redcliffe can either suck it up or join with GC

NZ2

Equatorial/Tropical/Northern Buffalos

Based out of Darwin playing half their games in PNG
 

Pippen94

Juniors
Messages
444
Theoretically, if you were in charge of the NSWRL during 1980s, how would you have planned your expansion of the game?

Going back to 1982, the Canberra Raiders, the first expansion side in the NSWRL was founded, along with the VFL's first expansion side, the Sydney Swans.



1981 NSWRFL current teams

Eastern Suburbs

Newtown

South Sydney

Penrith

Manly-Warringah

North Sydney

Parramatta

Canterbury-Bankstown

St George

Western Suburbs

Balmain

Cronulla

Teams that were introduced in 1982

Illawarra

Canberra


Firstly, obviously way too many Sydney sides here, the NRL would eventually solve this issue in the '90s and '00s with half baked 'mergers'.

Using a bit of hindsight, but being reasonable, here's what I would have done:

How 1982 should have been

Eastern Suburbs/Sydney City Roosters

The Roosters would remain as the main eastern suburbs side

South Sydney Rabbitohs
I would have ideally booted Souths, as it seems unnecessary to have two sides based out of Eastern Sydney, however the NRL would eventually try this in 2000 and it didn't go well. Most Souths fans live out west so maybe they could play in parra or blacktown or smthn idk

Parramatta Eels
Second most supported Sydney team in the large region

Macarthur Magpies
The Western Suburbs Magpies would rebrand as the Macarthur magpies, Wests eventually moved to Campbelltown in 1987 anyway so I'm just making the transition smoother

St George Dragons
Taking in the Southern Sydney region

Illawarra Sharks
Southern Sydney is too small for two teams, NSWRL obviously wanted a team in Illawarra. I would expect this team would evetually merge with St George, just as the Steelers did

Penrith Panthers

North Sydney Bears

Incorporating the entire North Sydney region

Gosford Sea-Eagles
Similar situation as the Illawarra Sharks, probably unsustainable, would probably merge with North Sydney

Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Not sure how neccessary Canterbury would be because I don't know much about Sydney geography

Canberra Tigers
Tigers to Canberra

Brisbane Past Brothers Leprechauns
Two Brisbane sides introduced, both Brisbane city BRL teams. Rugby league already has a deep history in Brisbane, so using BRL teams rather than a bid team or relocation means that the team already has a supporter base and a history within the city. Leprechauns is an original name that is rarely used in sport, unlike the generic, American "Broncos"

Fortitude Valley Diehards

Create a rivalry with the 'chauns, another great original name. Would have to change their colours so they don't clash with the next side

Melbourne Jets
If the VFL can get a team in Sydney by 1982, then there can be a professional rugby league side in Melbourne as well. Jets got booted in 1983 anyway, might as well move them to Melbourne. Hipster Suburb team into Hipster city


Future Expansions
In order of priority

Auckland Warriors

Western Reds

NQ Razerbacks

Cowboys is a dumb American name

Adelaide Rams

Gold Coast Dolphins
Titans is also not a great name, atleast it isn't American sounding, Redcliffe can either suck it up or join with GC

NZ2

Equatorial/Tropical/Northern Buffalos

Based out of Darwin playing half their games in PNG

No
 

Perth Red

Immortal
Messages
42,768
Theoretically, Id have picked the strongest 5 NSWRL Sydney clubs, the strongest 3 BRL Brisbane clubs added Auckland, Newcastle, Canberra and Melbourne. And started with a national 12 team comp with plans to add two teams every 5 years from major population centres of Perth, Townsville, Gosford (or Wollongong) & Adelaide for an eventual 16 team SuperLeague lol.
 

flippikat

Bench
Messages
2,543
Theoretically, Id have picked the strongest 5 NSWRL Sydney clubs, the strongest 3 BRL Brisbane clubs added Auckland, Newcastle, Canberra and Melbourne. And started with a national 12 team comp with plans to add two teams every 5 years from major population centres of Perth, Townsville, Gosford (or Wollongong) & Adelaide for an eventual 16 team SuperLeague lol.

So, for 4 of the 5 strongest NSWRL clubs, I'm guessing Parramatta, Manly, Canterbury, St George.. but I'm scratching my head as to which would be the 5th one.

For the 3 strongest Brisbane clubs, I'm guessing South Brisbane, Redcliffe & Wynnum-Manly.
 
Messages
3,389
Pastoral Brothers Leprechauns (Grange) and Fortitude Valley Diehards (Ambion) were strong brands in the 80s, but both were too close to one another and it led to their eventual downfall. I don't see either club surviving in the NSWRL. The only way two BRL clubs could have worked in the NSWRL back then is if Brothers, Wests, Valleys, Norths and Redcliffe formed to create a northern city club, and Easts, Souths and Wynnum Manly merged to form a southern city club.

Fast forward to the present, and Logan Brothers now is the largest club from the Brothers Confraternity, so I'd rename them the Logan Leprechauns and enter them in the Queensland Cup. QRL is currently looking at leasing land at Heritage Park for a Logan-based team in the Queensland Cup.

I think Fortitude Valley Diehards should have tried to strike a deal with Gold Coast Titans to become the Gold Coast Diehards. They both use the gladiator theme and it would allow Queensland's oldest and most successful club to live on as a recognised brand and give the Gold Coast team a link to Brisbane, which is vital as they need a fanbase and commercial support from the capital to compete with the big clubs.

7C28151C-2147-457B-B691-6B53D47FA68D.jpeg

If Brisbane Firehawks aren't given the 17th licence and lose their case against the Firebirds, they should look at buying the Titans, working out some sort of deal with Valleys and rebranding the team the East Coast Diehards. It could take in south-eastern Brisbane, Logan and Gold Coast. That team would rate better on TV than the Titans, who sit at the bottom of the chart. Drawing viewers from Brisbane, Logan and Gold Coast would make them one of the game's stronger brands with a huge player catchment, without cannibalising the Broncos too much. It also allows Pirates and NZ2 to enter as the 17th and 18th team. Split games between Lang Park and Robina Stadium. If they still want a Brisbane team as the 17th licence they could go with Moreton Bay Dolphins, based out of Lang Park.

North Queensland Marlins would have been the better name for a Townsville-based club. The Cowboys wanted to be the North Queensland Crocodiles, but RU got in the way so they became the Cowboys.

It's a pity Norths and Easts don't get together to put in a bid as the Brisbane Devils.
9F9BDC59-1A30-48BD-820E-D5A704081053.jpeg
 
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flippikat

Bench
Messages
2,543
Ironically, the two teams that realised Sydney was over saturated and attempted to move and re-brand — Newtown/Campbelltown Jets and North Sydney / Central Coast Bears - got f**ked over.

Yep - and I'm convinced that seeing that happen twice made everyone gun-shy about relocation.

I really like Hartwood's idea above about relocating Newtown Jets to Melbourne in the early '80s. It would have preserved a foundation team AND maybe shown that relocation was a chance to grow (and not merely survive).

They could even have used a little tweaking to their brand to reflect the new era of the Jets - say, adding navy blue trim for a Victorian touch, and/or changing the white to silver.. and wearing their traditional jersey in away games in Sydney.
 
Messages
4,734
Ironically, the two teams that realised Sydney was over saturated and attempted to move and re-brand — Newtown/Campbelltown Jets and North Sydney / Central Coast Bears - got f**ked over.

Easts and Saints talked about merging in mid 90s too.
Western Suburbs moved twice, From Ashfield to Lidcombe to Campbelltown, and they weren’t f**ked over for it.

They literally stole the deal to move to Campbelltown from Newtown.

If a Sydney club was serious about making an effort to grow in a new part of Sydney then they could easily do that in most cases. The reality is that not even the ones that should be are even slightly interested in making any significant changes.
 
Messages
4,734
I really like Hartwood's idea above about relocating Newtown Jets to Melbourne in the early '80s. It would have preserved a foundation team AND maybe shown that relocation was a chance to grow (and not merely survive).
There’s no way that Newtown was in a financial position to move to Melbourne.

They would have moved to Melbourne, and just like the Swans in Sydney, promptly gone broke. The difference being that the NSWRL wouldn’t have bailed the Jets out multiple times and literally rigged the competition to make them successful like the AFL did for the Swans.

The real chance for a club to relocate to Melbourne was in the early 90s when Balmain was considering it.
 
Messages
7,543
Good thread idea - thanks for posting @Hartwood

I'm thinking about this from two angles.

1 - If I were from the NSWRL, and
2 - If I were each club - what would I do to "survive" in the league, and the best option... (benefit of hindsight of course).

Firstly if I were the NSWRL...
  • Set a target of 7 teams to be based in Sydney by 1990 (ie in ten years).
  • Have a 14 team competition.
  • Mergers of any kind are "off the table"... none/nothing/zip in this area..
  • Incentives for Relocations of team to the following areas... (ie areas to grow the game)
  1. Canberra
  2. Illawarra
  3. Newcastle
  4. Brisbane
  5. Central Coast
  6. Campbelltown/Macarthur (included in the 8 "sydney" teams quota).
The rationale is to have less saturation of "Sydney-Centric" Teams, but allow certain clubs to maintain the opportunity to keep "an identity" while growing a much larger junior base & fan base.. Of course there would be a natural resistance of clubs and their fans to move but ultimately for some, but would be the only option to survive. It wouldn't please everyone but then again, what would...

So how might this play out... well I have to go back to the 80's in a time machine first to remember the state of play.

>>>>>>BACK TO THE EIGHTIES>>>>

Found this tough - but.....considering success on & off the field, fan bases and regional coverage (ie juniors)...
  • there were a distinct "Big 4" fan bases in the Dogs, The Dragons, The Rabbitohs & The Eels. The Dogs & Dragons had big Leagues clubs in the day - The Taj Mahal being possibly the most revered in the comp.
  • I grew up in the Shire in the 80's, and while Cronulla had been in the comp for a while - only a really small % of people who lived there actually supported them - the majority were either Rabbits or Dragons fans. Their fan base grew stronger in the decades to follow..
  • You had hardcore support for sides like the Tigers & Wests but their areas were relatively small with limited success on & off the field - Especially off it.
  • The Roosters were a reasonably-well supported club but they were heading into a horribly lean decade on n off the field (they should Canonise Nick Politis for what he's done for the Roosters btw - if not for him I doubt they'd exist today).
  • The Jets had been on the scrapheap for a long time and only the intervention of Singo had kept them alive. And bringing Tommy to the club almost got them a title and a stay of execution...sadly short-lived.
  • Clubs like Parra & Penrith were considered "regional" and were in huge growth areas of the Sydney Metro Area.
  • The Dogs had a huge junior area and success both on n off the field. "The Entertainers"..
  • The Sea Eagles were successful both on and off the field. The club was full of cash, "The Silvertails". They were the benchmark in how a club should be run. Much hated but couldn't argue with success.
  • The Bears were hard to describe. The demographic of their area was moving to elderly folk in the leafy suburbs. They'd done bugger all on the field for ages. The 90's resurgence they ended up having was seemingly lightyears away from what you'd predict for them.
SO... WHAT DOES THE COMP LOOK LIKE IN TEN YEARS TIME (1990)

14 teams...


(Key - * = as is, ** = additional/altered zones, *** = relocation).
  • Newcastle Jets*** (Newtown relocated)
  • Macarthur Magpies*** (Wests > Campbelltown)
  • Central Coast Bears*** (Norths > Gosford)
  • South Coast Sharks*** (Cronulla > Wollongong)
  • Canberra Roosters*** (Easts > Canberra)
  • Brisbane Tigers*** (Balmain > Brisbane)
  • Sydney Rabbitohs** (taking in East Subs & Balmain).
  • North Shore Sea Eagles** (taking in Nth Syd)
  • Dragons** (Taking in the Sutherland Shire. Unsure what the new name should be though. "St George-Sutherland" Dragons or similar doesn't ring true....and couldn't have "Southern" Dragons if you have "South Coast Sharks" in the comp)
  • Parramatta Eels*
  • Canterbury Bulldogs*
  • Penrith Panthers*
Additional teams
  • Brisbane +1
  • Nth Queensland +1.
Here...

I'm not suggesting for a second that the management of teams like Newtown etc should run their relocated club. Eg Newtown shouldn't run Newcastle. I more thinking with my 80's hat on... I think relocating clubs these days would be more problematic than doing so back in the 80's..

One of the Brisbane Teams should encompass the GC area.... yes the GC is an hour down the road from Brissy.... The SEQ Crushers didnt last long term but the idea was right IMO.

Re Easts vs Souths to stay "in sydney"... I went purely on the Fan base - with Souths having one of the biggest bases in the comp.

Would people of Canberra, Newcastle, Central Coast etc throw their support behind an "existing" club brand relocated to their area? In my mind, and back at that time - I'd say overwhelmingly yes.

Would fans of the "relocated" clubs abandon League? Possibly. No doubt any team relocated would have lots of angst. The sides I looked at to do this are the ones who had either a small region (thus juniors) to cover and/or financial issues at the time.

Dragons/Sharks - it's a tough one to shuffle around but the Sharks had "only" been in the comp 13 years by that stage... Before then the Dragons had basically the run of the Shire n Wollongong for juniors. I admit, it was very hard to completely get rid of all bias but moreso I was trying to focus on logic in the movements here. The Dragons club & fan base was huge..... The junior base in the Illawarra was huge. The Sharks fan base at the time was emerging but not inherent in the Sutherland Shire like it is today.....

To give it some further perspective - at this stage the Sharks had been in the competition (approx 13 years) for less time than the Steelers were in the comp (17 seasons). It would have been far "easier" for the Sharks fans to accept a shift down the road at this time than it was for Steelers fans to effectively lose their club's identity in a JV with Saints as they did. Kids now growing up in the Illawarra now identify with the Dragons as their local team (not the Steelers) and I'm certain that would have been the same for the Shire Folk who followed the Sharks in the 80's.... Although they at least would have a choice of sticking with the Sharks brand or following the "renewed" local team in the Dragons. Sharks fans of today would howl this down no doubt, spit their beer out in disgust... but we are talking 40 years ago... very different times.


WHAT DOES THE COMP LOOK LIKE IN 20 YEARS TIME (2000).

18 Teams.


Set a Target of Teams of a further 4 x Expansion teams by 2000 (ie in 20 years time). Not necessarily starting at the same time, ideally staged over 10 years.
  • Auckland
  • Melbourne
  • Adelaide
  • Perth
____

So effectively all the same areas of the current competition are covered by my hypothetical.....with the exception of Perth, Adelaide. The GC is part of the 2nd Brisbane team - although happy to admit that it's not without complications.
 
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siv

Bench
Messages
4,926
Back in 1982 in hinsight should have been only 1 expansion team after Newcastle pulled out

That being Illawarra

End of 1983 Newtown fall over and we are back to 12 teams

1985 Wests embrace Campbelltown

1988 we expand to 14 teams Newcastle & Brisbane (but not News Ltd Broncos)

1995 expansion to 16 Auckland & Nth Qld

1999 would see CC Bears setup. Cronulla take relocation money and move to Perth rather than going bust

2005 Easts moved to Melbourne and Balmain merge with Brisbane Easts to become Brisbane Tigers

2020 expansion to include Western NSW(based in Canberra/Wagga/Dubbo) and Western Qld based in Toowoomba/Ipswich
 
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flippikat

Bench
Messages
2,543
There’s no way that Newtown was in a financial position to move to Melbourne.

They would have moved to Melbourne, and just like the Swans in Sydney, promptly gone broke. The difference being that the NSWRL wouldn’t have bailed the Jets out multiple times and literally rigged the competition to make them successful like the AFL did for the Swans.

The real chance for a club to relocate to Melbourne was in the early 90s when Balmain was considering it.

Fair point, I guess that unless there was some deep-pocket benefactor (who? *shrugs* I dunno..) then moving the Jets to Melbourne in the early 80s is a stretch.. but hey, it was a fun scenario to toy with - in a kinda "Anything VFL can do, we can do too" way to match their Swans move.
 
Messages
7,543
@Bring back John Fifita - I like your idea of relocating Sydney teams to regional centres (Wollongong, Newcastle, Central Coast, even Canberra).. would have solved two problems in one - rationalising Sydney AND securing a presence in regional NSW/ACT.

Cheers mate.

Yeah I think it ticks those boxes.

I was thinking, again with benefit of hindsight, would those 12 clubs in 1981 be better off under this scenario than they are today?

For the majority - I'd say absolutely yes. This would create more "powerhouses" in amongst the Sydney Teams rather than have & have-nots of the 80's, The Regional Centres (expansion teams) indeed would have their same presence in the comp as today / just with a different mascot.

The exceptions would be The Roosters given their success in the last decade and a bit but again - they were a whole different story from the early 80's for the next 15 or so years. For a while they were playing out of Henson Park in front of a few dozen blokes and the odd dog... The Balmain Tigers would be the other club that might put it's hand up - but.... aside from not being in Sydney, they'd have evolved as the Broncos ended up doing.... not in the problematic JV they are currently in (both the current JV's have been going for over 20 years but neither have had sustained success - more problems than successes IMO).
 

Pippen94

Juniors
Messages
444
I lose faith in fans when they think regional teams would make the league bigger & more profitable.
Sydney clubs are more stable than regional ones & their rivalry & fanbases are the reason NRL still exists.
 

Dark Corner

Juniors
Messages
341
Back in 1982 in hinsight should have been only 1 expansion team after Newcastle pulled out

That being Illawarra

End of 1983 Newtown fall over and we are back to 12 teams

1985 Wests embrace Campbelltown

1988 we expand to 14 teams Newcastle & Brisbane (but not News Ltd Broncos)

1995 expansion to 16 Auckland & Nth Qld

1999 would see CC Bears setup. Cronulla take relocation money and move to Perth rather than going bust

2005 Easts moved to Melbourne and Balmain merge with Brisbane Easts to become Brisbane Tigers

2020 expansion to include Western NSW(based in Canberra/Wagga/Dubbo) and Western Qld based in Toowoomba/Ipswich
Why did Newcastle say no to 1982 ?
 

siv

Bench
Messages
4,926
Why did Newcastle say no to 1982 ?

Same reason they said no in 1910

They wanted to focus on their Newcastle district competition

Illawarra, Newcastle and Auckland district comps were all very strong prior to their district rep team joining the big league

Lots of local TV & media coverage etc etc too

Similar thing happened to the BRL when the Broncos entered
 
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