Written by Joshua Dean
Many rugby league experts believe that Brisbane and Perth will definitely be the top contenders for an expansion club when the time comes.
Only a couple of months ago former NRL CEO Todd Greenburg was touting a second Brisbane based team saying: “I say they are in the box seat because that’s genuine through the numbers and analysis.”
But what about New Zealand?
There are many gains to be made in having a second New Zealand NRL club. The potential growth the sport could benefit from in the country is huge. New Zealand is a rugby union mad nation with many people not too fond of the Warriors. Having a brand new Kiwi franchise would create hype and generate a real buzz for the game of rugby league in New Zealand.
You could see sports fans adopting a new New Zealand NRL team as their own, supporting something fresh. The talented secondary school’s Rugby Union players could be convinced to become league players. Joining a brand new NRL team would be very enticing to these young stars as making the All-Blacks squad is a very difficult task.
The NRL and New Zealand Rugby League would have a big opportunity to grow the game further in New Zealand, a place where there are many passionate rugby league fans, however still not enough. There is an incredible amount of talent in New Zealand, as we saw with the dominant NYC Warriors sides in the early 2010s. Many young Kiwis join Australian sides because there is nowhere else to go.
If there was a second NRL team, the sport in New Zealand would be become immensely more prevalent whilst also seeing an increase in talent, and viewership numbers rise.
— NZ Rugby League (@NZRL_Kiwis) May 1, 2020
New Zealand Rugby League isn’t exactly flush with funds either and would struggle to help back a new NRL team. Even if they could do it, how would Wellington or Christchurch be able to get more than 10,000 people attending games?
Sustaining the crowds would be very tough in these cities, especially in Winter. The Wellington Phoenix football side only has started to get solid crowds due to their team’s success. Another risk is would they even gain a following? All New Zealand league fans support the Warriors or another NRL club already, would any of them jump ship to this new side? If they didn’t, who would support this club?
As you can see, expansion is always subject to great debate. The NRL have a major decision to make. Whether they should even expand at all, or have another team in Brisbane, a new one in Perth, Wellington, Christchurch or one of the other destinations that have been mentioned over the years.
New Zealand needs something extra to create growth in the sport of rugby league tho. The time may not be the right time for any expansion at the moment, but the NRL has previously stated if the game expands it would be in 2023.
When that time comes there should be two new clubs in the NRL. Brisbane and Perth may seem to be the front runners, however, a Wellington or Christchurch team would give the game a massive opportunity to grow.
It will be very interesting to see what direction the NRL takes. It is definitely a massive decision for them to make.