In recent years the need for the NRL to expand has become more of a priority, with the AFL strengthening it’s grip on the title of most popular sport in Australia and competitions such as the A-League and NBL slowly gaining ground on the NRL.
The NRL has remained largely silent on the topic, however have not been so silent about their admiration for Perth.
In recent years the NRL has taken regular season games, State of Origin and soon the 9’s to Perth, in large part to see if there is enough interest in the sport to sustain a club.
To this point the NRL has been very well received in Perth, with the 2018 round 1 double header at Optus Stadium drawing a crowd of 38,842, far surpassing the average attendance rate and the 2019 State of Origin game II at Optus Stadium bringing in a crowd of 59,721.
At the end of the 2018 season, the NRL revealed that there had actually been a 16.7% increase in juniors playing grass roots Rugby League in Western Australia that year alone, and considering New South Wales’ participation rate only went up 5.5%, it definitely shows just how quickly Rugby League is taking off on the West Coast.
Although we unfortunately don’t have concrete figures, in the past year outlets have also been reporting that the current Rugby League participation rate in Perth alone is currently higher than what it was in Melbourne when the Storm were first established.
It is also crucial that the NRL expand to Perth soon so they can better live up to the name of NATIONAL Rugby League and make up some ground on the AFL, who currently have a stronghold in Perth, however one the previous statistics in this article would show, can be broken.
Many are quick to point out the Western Reds of 1995-1997, and use them as an argument for as to why a Perth based Rugby League team would fail, however this could not be further from the truth.
If not for the Super League war, the Western Reds would likely still exist today.
After their first season in 1995, the Reds were thriving, averaging 13,000 fans per game, which was better than any of the other three expansion teams, however once siding with the Super League, crowds dwindled in 1996, leading to the club getting into financial trouble, and after the 1997 Super League season they would be axed by the competition’s governing body.
In 2012 it was announced that the NRL would be conducting an expansion review at the end of the 2022 NRL season ahead of the new TV rights deal coming in, due to the demand from fans the NRL will likely announce a new expansion team at that time, and due to their recent investment in Perth and the rising participation rates that is where that team will likely be based.