Die hard Bronco could hold key to second Brisbane team
THE Queensland Government has turned up the heat on the NRL to expand in 2022 as Broncos legend Darren Lockyer backed plans for a second team in Brisbane.
The NRL could expand the competition to 17 teams as early as 2022 and the Queensland government has put out the welcome mat for a new Brisbane franchise to join the Broncos.
ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys is investigating whether the game can afford expansion and, if so, will consider adding a second Brisbane team 12 months ahead of the proposed 2023 target date.
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The NRL could seek tenders for expansion at the end of this season. Former Maroons Origin skipper Lockyer, the Broncos' most-capped player with 355 appearances, is adamant the south-east Queensland market is ready for another team on the proviso the existing 16 clubs are viable.
"As long as the Sydney clubs are secure financially, I'm all for another team in Brisbane," Lockyer said.
"Obviously we would need to look at the sport's financials.
"What this coronavirus pandemic has done is pull the whole game apart and made us look at bringing it back together in a more streamlined fashion.
"For me, the key is revenue. If a 17th team won't give us another game in the broadcast deal, how does it bring more value to the code?
"I'm supportive of expansion but it's important we make sure everything is rock solid first before we bring in a second Brisbane team."
Queensland tourism minister Kate Jones says the Sunshine State has the supporter base and infrastructure to ensure a second Brisbane team can compete with the Broncos.
"I'd love to see a second Brisbane team join the league," Jones said.
"The more games played here and not Sydney, the better.
"My heart is with the Broncos and always will be.
"The NRL have assured us that they are committed to the Titans and ensuring we keep a Gold Coast team.
"But more teams in Queensland means more local footy content which is great for our fans and local businesses."
Before the coronavirus pandemic struck, prospective franchises were hoping to receive some clarity from the NRL in July. That was the month in which V'landys planned to gauge the expansionary appetite of broadcasters Channel 9 and Fox Sports.
V'landys is now unlikely to entertain a tender process until the 2020 season is completed, although he is committed to expansion and remains open to a 17th team in 2022.
"There's more pressing matters at the moment obviously, so I won't be looking at this (expansion) until the end of the year," he said.
"We still believe a second team is needed in Brisbane but we have to do it responsibly.
"It will certainly take much more scrutiny now (in the wake of the COVIA-19 saga) and a robust business case.
"The numbers have to stack up."
IPSWICH 'READY TO GO IN 2022'
Ipswich consortium chief Steve Johnson has declared the western-corridor bid is the best option for the NRL as the battle to become the code's 17th team gathers steam.
While ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys has given no guarantees expansion will happen, his preference is to grow the game and he will push for a second Brisbane team to join the NRL as early as 2022.
The Brisbane Bombers bid is well advanced with the consortium having finalised a 200-page document ready for tender, but Johnson is adamant Ipswich is the most complete choice for the NRL.
"We would be ready to go in 2022," Johnson said.
"We would create a tremendous rivalry with the Brisbane Broncos and the Gold Coast Titans.
"The NRL will need to be very careful not to damage its marquee club, the Broncos.
"Of the known rival bids, only the western corridor can deliver what the game will need. We are the only bid that ticks all the boxes and will give the fans a real voice by giving the community ownership of an NRL team."
The population of Ipswich is around 200,000, a figure dwarfed by the 2.5 million residents in the Brisbane metropolitan region.
There is a view Ipswich lacks the corporate support and population to ensure a successful franchise, but Johnson scoffed at suggestions the western corridor bid can't be an NRL force.
"The western corridor is home to some serious corporates, we have over 45,000 businesses, who for the first time will have a team to support," he said.
"With us, the Brisbane Broncos' corporate base will be unaffected but at risk if another bid were to succeed.
"We represent Queensland's rugby league heartland with almost 30 per cent of the game's participants in the state and the game's biggest fan base.
"The club will be focused on building good people first and good players second.
"If we get the licence we have a huge fan base which will put more backsides on seats at Suncorp Stadium, playing a style of attractive football that TV viewers will want to watch.
"We will help reconnect the NRL to the community so they have faith once again that rugby league is their game."