By IAN HOWE
THE WESTERN AUSTRALIAN government has set out its hopes of hosting the 18th NRL team in the near future, claiming that a successful bid will bring community, economic and tourism benefits to the region that is centred on the city of Perth and its population of 1,985,000.
Mark McGowan, the Premier of Western Australian, has established a working party with the task of identifying a third-party bid for a new NRL franchise.
The NRL will expand to 17 teams in 2023, with the expectation the competition will further grow to 18 teams in the following years.
A cross-agency Government working group chaired by the Hon. Peter Tinley MLA has been established to help facilitate the development of a third-party bid and, where necessary, assist the bid through the potential bidding process.
Preliminary work has already begun to gather interest from potential third parties and determine the most appropriate bid structure.
A local NRL team would provide an opportunity to increase the participation in community Rugby League, which – with 4,100 registered players – is the game’s third biggest jurisdiction behind the traditional strongholds of NSW and Queensland.
An 18th team would provide the NRL with an additional weekly fixture, while a team based in Perth would have the added benefit of an additional TV time slot given the fact that its time zone is three hours behind the time zone of Sydney on the east coast, meaning, for example, that a game could kick off in Perth at 7.00pm local time and be broadcast in Sydney at 10.00pm, extending the live broadcast coverage of the game in its biggest market.
WA Sport and Recreation Minister David Templeman cites the popularity of State of Origin in Perth as the rationale for basing an NRL team there.
“Two recent sell-out State of Origin Fixtures demonstrate that there is a strong and growing appetite for Rugby League in Western Australia,” said Templeman.
“A WA-based NRL team would bring long term community, tourism and economic benefits to the State and grow local participation in grassroots sport, particularly female participation.
“Although the State Government won’t be leading the bid or responsible for a potential franchise, we are confident that there will be a strong and compelling case for a WA-based team.
“WA’s nation-leading economy provides an enormous opportunity for the NRL to maximise corporate support and fan spending.”
WA Tourism Minister Roger Cook added his voice to the clamour for a Perth-based NRL team.
“Anyone who was at the stadium for this year’s sold-out State of Origin saw how passionate WA fans are about Rugby League,” he said.
“It was an amazing night that sent a clear message to the National Rugby League executives who were there.
“If they want to make the NRL a truly national competition then they need to have a WA team playing every week.
“A WA team will be great for the competition but would also act as an economic driver for WA tourism businesses.
“WA has been the sporting capital of Australia in 2022 because of the McGowan Government’s event strategy so it makes perfect sense to seriously investigate a bid for the 18th NRL franchise.”
The NRL have made it clear that any proposed franchise must bring a new fanbase, financial backing and cannot hinder the support of any existing clubs.