Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
Expansion is a term that has been on the lips of most Rugby League fans since the Dolphins bid to join the NRL was accepted back in October, with the NRL’s newest franchise slowly but surely building a solid side for their inaugural season in 2023.
However, the attention of many has since turned to just who will be the NRL’s 18th franchise and where they will be based.
The Bears and Western Australia have already displayed intent to put in a bid, but the fast-approaching conclusion of Sky Sports’ television rights deal with the NRL in New Zealand has sparked speculation that a second team based in the home of the Kiwis could become a reality as early as 2024.
New Zealand based outlet Business Desk has revealed five outcomes that the NRL reportedly wants from the next television deal that they sign with a New Zealand based network that will commence in 2024, which includes more free-to-air games being broadcast in New Zealand, a Magic Round to be held across the Tasman and of course a second New Zealand based franchise in the NRL.
Brilliant read from kiwi media veteran, Trevor McEwen, on the battle plan of the #NRL to take on the @AllBlacks in NZ. @chasingroos @DebSpillane @BuzzRothfield @NZWarriors @NZRL_Kiwis https://t.co/fj3WLCIK7P
— Craig Norenbergs (@CraigNorenbergs) December 6, 2021
If these reports are true and the NRL’s wishes come to fruition, then this new New Zealand based franchise would enter the competition in 2024 and call either Christchurch or Wellington home.
The Daily Telegraph’s Dean Ritchie has since spoken out on the Big Sports Breakfast in response to Business Desk’s article casting doubts on New Zealand’s chances of having a second NRL team based in their country.
“It’s not something I’ve heard in Australia,” Ritchie said.
“I don’t know, the last time I checked the NRL hadn’t even approved an 18th franchise — we haven’t even got the 17th franchise on the field just yet.
“If it comes down to 18 (teams) I’m not suggesting that it shouldn’t be over there — I think it’s certainly got merit. The Bears are the ones I would like to see back in, Perth is another one that would be an option and Wellington and Christchurch.”
While nothing is for certain, the next television deal that the NRL signs with a New Zealand based network could be the determining factor as to where the NRL’s 18th franchise will be based.