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NRL's growth mindset points to 18th team. And it ain't Perth.

Last Week

Bench
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3,392
A second Brisbane team is set to lead to an 18th NRL franchise, possibly in New Zealand, as the code moves from a survival phase caused by the coronavirus pandemic to one of short and long-term growth.

The NRL last week announced a $24.7 million loss for 2020 - a remarkable figure given the fears for the game’s finances when the Telstra Premiership was suspended on March 23, and a deficit that would have been just $3.7 million if revenue from November’s State of Origin series was included.

The commitment of the game’s broadcast partners, sponsors and players, coupled with cuts of $50 million from NRL expenditure, has ensured the game is in a strong position to look to the future and there are a series of reviews either underway now or due to start.

“The plan for the NRL is to stabilise, renovate and then grow,” NRL CEO Andrew Abdo said.

“We have to stay vigilant, we are going to have to get through a very complicated 2021 season, vaccines are still being rolled out and we are not sure what is going to happen with borders so we can’t take our eye of the ball.

“But at the same time we are busy laying the foundations for some very exciting long-term initiatives, whether it be how we develop talent, where we play and where our clubs are, or whether it is about the international game.

“You have to develop an ambitious long-term vision and then make sure that as you work through the renovation phase we are setting ourselves up for that.”

Among the ideas being considered are:

· Introducing a player transfer window and central contract registration system;

· Overhauling the Rugby League Accredited Player Agent Scheme;

· Using technology to improve the game-day experience for fans;

· Creating a network of boutique stadiums across Sydney;

· Increasing the number of rounds and teams in the NRLW;

· Developing the Nines format;

· Growing participation numbers, and;

· Expanding the number of NRL teams.

“Considering whether a 17th team is viable fits under that growth phase,” Abdo said. “We haven’t been that explicit about it but a 17th team is a step to 18 teams.


“Moving to 17 teams wouldn’t be an end point. It gets you closer to 18 teams and obviously 18 teams gives you a few different options.

“An 18th team allows you to think about what we might want to do about expanding in New Zealand. Having two teams in New Zealand creates a tribalism and a new rivalry in New Zealand.

“It also gives you options around pools because you can have two pools of nine teams. As you see with some of the big US sports, as you grow your competition and the scale of the number of teams you can create a dynamic around who plays who and ultimately create more rivalries in regional areas and have competitions within competitions.

“You have to begin with the end in mind, you have to always keep an eye on the long term and you have to think about what is moving you closer to becoming an even more sustainable and relevant and viable sport.”

Stabilise
If the NRL introduces a second Brisbane team in 2023, it will be the first time a new franchise has been admitted since Gold Coast Titans joined the premiership in 2007 and Melbourne Storm were before them in 1999, so an 18th team may be some way off.

However, it is an insight into the game’s strategy for growth under the leadership of Abdo and ARLC chairman Peter V’landys.

“It’s bold and it is ambitious but because we have worked so hard to preserve cash we are actually in a position that we can actually invest,” Abdo said.

Covid-19 forced the NRL to make some tough financial decisions and costs were slashed, players forced to take pay cuts and broadcast deals re-negotiated to ensure the game survived.

Remarkably, 98 per cent of sponsors continued their commitment to the game as the NRL resumed on May 28 and completed a 20-round competition before the finals and Origin series.

“That was key to us protecting our position as much as possible because we had extraordinary costs with charter flights [for teams] and the medical protocols we had to cover, the additional support we had to provide to the clubs and the additional costs related to the relocation of the Warriors and the Storm.

“We needed to be ready for other possible relocations as we were never sure how much money we would need as a provision to make sure we completed the season.

“The key outcome of that was to make sure we preserved cash, that we didn’t incur debt and we were able to support all 16 clubs, who were able to stay solvent.

“That was critical so we were able to start the 2021 season intact, which we are now, and by preserving cash and the balance sheet we are now able to invest.”

Renovate
Having survived the worst, the NRL is now ready to start thinking of the future and looking at opportunities to improve the game.

“If we use the metaphor of a freak storm damaging your house, we are now in the phase where it is still raining but the storm by and large has passed,” Abdo said.

“It may come back so we need to make sure that we rebuild the house so that it can withstand another storm but equally we are not going to rebuild the same house we had before because when you have had your house shattered by an external event it is a great opportunity, if you are on a great piece of land, to take better advantage of that.”

Of course, Abdo believes rugby league is the sporting equivalent of prime real estate and the NRL is looking at ways to take advantage of that.

“The focus isn’t just on being more efficient and more effective internally but also thinking of innovative ways we can give better experiences to our fans by investing in the live game experience,” he said.

“We want to make it even more of an entertainment experience by developing a live game app or using technology at grounds to really amplify what it is like to watch a game live.

“We have a game that is built on tribalism so bringing that colour and atmosphere back to the big rivalry matches is really important for us."

Grow
A decision is expected to be made mid-year on whether to admit a 17th team but the prospect of a Brisbane derby would appear to fit into the NRL’s long-term strategy.

All three bids have links with long-established Queensland Cup clubs - Redcliffe Dolphins, Brisbane Firehawks (Easts Tigers) and Brisbane Bombers/Western Corridor consortium (Ipswich Jets) - and ready-made fan bases.


“The research shows us that we already have footprints in the greater Brisbane area where there is strong following from a participation base and a strong following from a fan base,” Abdo said.

“We have to test that to make sure we are not cannibalising the Broncos or the Titans but our initial data shows us that there are large catchment areas and existing franchises that have a strong participation base, access to great facilities and fans.

“We have seen in a number of other sports that when you have a second franchise in a city that creates a very powerful local rivalry which is good commercially for the existing franchises – just think of Manchester United v Manchester City or the AFL strategy around two teams in Adelaide and two teams in Perth.”

In Sydney, the growth strategy relates to stadia improvements for fans through the code’s relationship with the NSW Government, while the NRL is also looking further afield to increase numbers of players and followers of the game.

“Growth relates to the number of fans we have so we are thinking about how we can grow new markets, not just in Australia but in New Zealand and the Pacific, and how we can connect and grow the strength of rugby league participation in those areas and the elite game as well, which then obviously flows on to the international game,” Abdo said.

“We have such wonderful products; we have touch, we have tag, we have the tackle format and we also have the short-form format of tackle in Nines, which has largely been unexploited.

“The growth phase is the mindset of how can we make it even more inclusive, how can we grow women’s participation, how can we include the hundreds of thousands of people who are engaged in touch football and connect them to an NRL club and to an elite game experience

“It’s infrastructure, participation and, of course, where we play by taking major events to growth markets for us and also thinking potentially about whether we want to expand and grow the number of clubs that we have.”

https://www.nrl.com/news/2021/03/01/nrls-growth-mindset-points-to-18th-team-in-new-zealand/
 
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flippikat

Bench
Messages
2,801
Well that certainly throws the cat amongst the pigeons!

I can see their reasoning - it installs a rivalry over here pretty darn quickly. I guess it avoids the "tredding on toes" that adding two Brisbane teams would do as well.

Gees, V'landys really wasn't kidding when he dismissed "rusted-on AFL states", was he?
 

ash the bash

Juniors
Messages
945
Interesting article, it makes sense from an International game point of view. PVL always talks of giving greater relevance to international game so maybe its not just lip service. Theoretically lead to stronger NZ international team along with stronger growth in the south Pacific.

I like it in theory, but can't work out which area etc would work best. Do they go for a game in Auckland each week ? Just spitballing but maybe a team based in Christchurch with the odd game in Dunedin. Being a south island team they would have their work cut out against union but from travelling a lot to South island they are not as anti league as one would imagine. With Union being a shorter comp would Christchurch have the market to support a league team.

South Island Kea's, South Island Orcas etc...

Reading that article subtle hints about which QLD bid they may favour.

"The research shows us that we already have footprints in the greater Brisbane area where there is strong following from a participation base and a strong following from a fan base,” Abdo said.
We have to test that to make sure we are not cannibalising the Broncos or the Titans but our initial data shows us that there are large catchment areas and existing franchises that have a strong participation base, access to great facilities and fans"

Think thats the Dolphins he is referring to "Greater Brisbane" could be either Dolphins or Jets. "Great facilities" going on current bids would have to mean Dolphins. Just my take.
 

Perth Red

Immortal
Messages
44,387
With comments like that from Abdo, PerthRed has a new target. Move over PVL

he’s like Kermit, he’s got vlandys hand up his arse and is saying whatever he wants him to say. Total puppet. There is no wonder vlandys got rid of a Ceo who actually thought it was his job to run the sport, he wanted someone who would dance to his tune.
As for the rest of it, it is blah blah blah, heard it all before from gallop, smith and Greenberg.
 

Perth Red

Immortal
Messages
44,387
How good would it be to see an NRL game in a brand new covered stadium in Christchurch every 2 weeks?

The rivalry between Christchurch & Auckland is the biggest in NZ sport too.

population is hardly any bigger than central coast and is rusted on union, what makes you think it could sustain a $30million a year nrl club? Crusaders won the comp in 19 and struggled to fill their small stadium. The suggestion in the article is the game needs and ther team in Auckland. Given the state of the Warriors I’d think it’s the last thing thing they would want!
 

flippikat

Bench
Messages
2,801
population is hardly any bigger than central coast and is rusted on union, what makes you think it could sustain a $30million a year nrl club?
Crusaders won the comp in 19 and struggled to fill their small stadium. The suggestion in the article is the game needs and ther team in Auckland. Given the state of the Warriors I’d think it’s the last thing thing they would want!


383,000 in Christchurch vs 333,000 on the Central Coast, plus it's a location without a plethora of NRL teams just an hour's drive away.

I dare say (admittedly without a formal business case) it sounds promising.

Admittedly the Crusaders crowds haven't been flash, but a degree of that is the poor state of Super Rugby - most notably a muddled expansion strategy and the conference format that peeved a lot of fans (rewarding mediocrity with guaranteed playoff spots for weak Aussie & SA teams).

Christchurch is more a RU city than a RL city, true.. but there is a history of RL down south. Quentin Pongia & Frank Endicott graduated to the NRL playing & coaching ranks via their time in the Christchurch league scene.
 
Messages
3,980
Well that certainly throws the cat amongst the pigeons!

I can see their reasoning - it installs a rivalry over here pretty darn quickly. I guess it avoids the "tredding on toes" that adding two Brisbane teams would do as well.

Gees, V'landys really wasn't kidding when he dismissed "rusted-on AFL states", was he?
That's why I was fervently against Adelaide and Perth when I came onto this board. I knew it was a waste of time advocating for them as the ARLC have no intention of putting teams in those cities.

At one stage I advocated for Brisbane 2/NZ 2 and then Brisbane 3/NZ 3 as I thought it lined up with the ARLC's stance on consolidation and tribalism.

Recently I took up the Pirates' cause because I can see genuine growth potential in that market and, if we don't reward the bid put forward by Cumins then we'll have f**k all chance of getting anyone else with money from Adelaide or Perth to bid for an NRL team. This is probably the only chance the NRL has of expanding into Perth without having to go down the Melbourne Storm / GWS Giants / GC Suns route of throwing shit loads of money on a team that has no connection to the local community. Pirates do have a passionate and dedicated fanbase in Perth and money from influential locals to support their operation. The way they've been treated by the ARLC is disgusting and will set our game back 50 years.

If I was the Pirates consortium I would look at saddling up with a struggling Sydney team that needs money to compete with the big boys. Wests Tigers is probably the best candidate. Balmain only has a 10% stake in the joint venture, so buy on the provision of taking a couple of games to Perth each year. It's not ideal, but it's the only hope Perth has at the moment. Getting big businessmen from Perth on board will hopefully convince the Wests Magpies owners just how much stronger they'll become by relocating permanently to Perth under the Western Magpies brand. That way Perth gets a team and Magpies get their brand back in the NRL with Leagues Clubs in Sydney to help fund it. Make the Wests Magpies NSW Cup team their reserve grade side.
 
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Messages
3,980
he’s like Kermit, he’s got vlandys hand up his arse and is saying whatever he wants him to say. Total puppet. There is no wonder vlandys got rid of a Ceo who actually thought it was his job to run the sport, he wanted someone who would dance to his tune.
As for the rest of it, it is blah blah blah, heard it all before from gallop, smith and Greenberg.
I disagree with the ARLC's treatment of Perth, but you cannot deny PVL has done more for expansion than any of the previous administrators.

Time for Peter Cumins and co to think outside the box. If they can't get a licence despite having a great bid, then play the long game and buy one. Do it in little steps. Buy out Balmain's 10% stake of the Wests Tigers and build from there as the Western Magpies. Play a couple of games each year in Perth. Make it 3 or 4 annual games after a few years. Get good crowds in Perth that piss all over the low turnouts in Campbelltown and say, "look, we're making more money from playing in Perth, so let's relocate there under the brand name Western Magpies and become a contender in this premiership". Money speaks all languages and makes the world go round. Use the Wests Magpies as the reserve grade team and provide a pathway for kids from the Macarthur region to reach the NRL. Eventually the NRL team can become the West Coast Magpies.
 
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flippikat

Bench
Messages
2,801
The fact that this has appeared on the NRL's official website is fascinating.

Also fascinating is the lack of any disclaimer (you know, "opinions expressed by the writer are not necessarily those of the NRL..")

It's as if they really are softening us up for this.
 

Santino Patane

Juniors
Messages
129
I honestly don’t see the sense in a second NZ team. I haven’t seen any natural desire for a second team- every Kiwi I know/come across supports the Warriors in some form or fashion. There isn’t any genuine dislike for them like the Broncs actually have in Brisbane (think Donkeys).

Wouldn’t it be better to consolidate and strengthen the Warriors like the Storm to grow the game in NZ? That would grow the game in real terms, rather than having 2 teams cannibalise each other.

If there’s an 18th team, Perth must be it- no question.
 

Santino Patane

Juniors
Messages
129
I disagree with the ARLC's treatment of Perth, but you cannot deny PVL has done more for expansion than any of the previous administrators.

Time for Peter Cumins and co to think outside the box. If they can't get a licence despite having a great bid, then play the long game and buy one. Do it in little steps. Buy out Balmain's 10% stake of the Wests Tigers and build from there as the Western Magpies. Play a couple of games each year in Perth. Make it 3 or 4 annual games after a few years. Get good crowds in Perth that piss all over the low turnouts in Campbelltown and say, "look, we're making more money from playing in Perth, so let's relocate there under the brand name Western Magpies and become a contender in this premiership". Money speaks all languages and makes the world go round. Use the Wests Magpies as the reserve grade team and provide a pathway for kids from the Macarthur region to reach the NRL. Eventually the NRL team can become the West Coast Magpies.
I think there’s credit in the long game theory, but I’d say do it to another team. I’m of the opinion that merged Sydney teams should be looked after at all costs. They made the tough call 23 years ago for the benefit of the game. Move others that dug their heels in or demerged a partner out.
 

flippikat

Bench
Messages
2,801
I honestly don’t see the sense in a second NZ team. I haven’t seen any natural desire for a second team- every Kiwi I know/come across supports the Warriors in some form or fashion. There isn’t any genuine dislike for them like the Broncs actually have in Brisbane (think Donkeys).

Wouldn’t it be better to consolidate and strengthen the Warriors like the Storm to grow the game in NZ? That would grow the game in real terms, rather than having 2 teams cannibalise each other.

If there’s an 18th team, Perth must be it- no question.

I have to admit, the comments from CEO Abdo have come out of the blue.. yes I was expecting the NRL to move towards 18 (an even-number competition structure gets maximum utility from the clubs)... but to proclaim the merits of NZ 2 when there's not even an active bid lobbying for it - at least not as actively as Perth - is a bit peculiar.
 

Vee

Bench
Messages
3,936
I think there’s credit in the long game theory, but I’d say do it to another team. I’m of the opinion that merged Sydney teams should be looked after at all costs. They made the tough call 23 years ago for the benefit of the game. Move others that dug their heels in or demerged a partner out.
Yeah, the NRL should look after them the way North Sydney were looked after when they helped out by planning to go regional, no, wait...
 

flippikat

Bench
Messages
2,801
I think there’s credit in the long game theory, but I’d say do it to another team. I’m of the opinion that merged Sydney teams should be looked after at all costs. They made the tough call 23 years ago for the benefit of the game. Move others that dug their heels in or demerged a partner out.

I think the thing that brings the Tigers to the fore in these kinda conversations is their disjointed (Geographically) fanbase/home ground situation and their continued under-performance in recent years, plus the congested nature of Sydney's inner-west - where Bulldogs, Eels, Tigers & nowdays Souths all have a part of the action.

Yeah, the NRL should look after them the way North Sydney were looked after when they helped out by planning to go regional, no, wait...

Hehehe.. that gave me a chuckle. But yeah, the NRL have been lousy in the past at recognizing the sacrifices made by clubs that make pro-active moves, and nurturing those clubs.
 

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