Second New Zealand NRL team could be in by 2017

The consortium behind the bid for a second New Zealand-based NRL franchise says the team would be ready to play by 2017.

Bid spokesman Robert Picone revealed yesterday that a coach had been sounded out, player agents spoken to and finances are in place to launch a club from scratch.

Picone is due to meet with NRL management within the next week and a decision on whether the 16-team competition will be expanded, and new licences granted, will be made by the middle of next year. The NRL hasn’t indicated a desire to expand but Picone, on the back of previous dealings with it, believes there could be 18 clubs in the competition by 2017 or 2018.

Picone said Wellington was the the logical base for a new team but there are no guarantees. His consortium is nervous about saturating one market and plan to have two homes within the North Island.

Clubs currently host 12 games a year and the potential North Island side would stage 50 to 75 per cent of games at its primary base, with the balance at the other. There is potential for a third home venue, although Picone said the constant travel would be hard on players.

The club will also align itself with an unnamed Pacific Island country, where they intend to play an annual pre-season fixture and pour resources into player development.