Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
The introduction of The Dolphins in 2023 puts the NRL one step closer to its goal of having 18 clubs.
Adding another club to the competition will not only see an even number of sides in the NRL but it gives the league a chance to properly expand and try to grow the game’s popularity.
While The Dolphins joining the NRL sees a club with a proud history being promised to the top grade the primary reason that they had their bid accepted was because they relocated to Brisbane.
The whole point of having a 17th club was so that the NRL can attempt to replicate the success of the Brisbane Broncos which most certainly cannot be called expansion, so it is important that basing a franchise outside of a Rugby League heartland area is at the top of the NRL’s criteria when looking at candidates for its 18th franchise.
At this point, The Bears bid seems to be gaining traction but where they will be located will be a different story as right now both Perth and New Zealand have a strong case to make as to why they should have an NRL team or in New Zealand’s case a second team.
If New Zealand were to have a bid accepted it would likely be to base a team on the nation’s southern island as the Warriors already occupy the north.
This team would then likely call Christchurch home and could play out of the 18,000 seater Orangetheory stadium which is currently being occupied by the Canterbury Rugby League regional body which oversees the local competitions and growth of our game in the area.
A second New Zealand-based club would also likely see the Warriors revert back to being the Auckland Warriors.
When looking at any expansion franchise the most important thing to consider is the primary point of that team existing in the first place and the point of a second New Zealand-based side would be to help Rugby League try to gain an even footing with Rugby Union in New Zealand.
Throughout the years Union has been successful in destroying the momentum of League across nations that once had the potential to become powerhouses of our game but ironically enough they have not been able to snuff out Rugby League in New Zealand with the Warriors still going strong after 27 years.
A south island-based team would give Rugby League a footprint across the entire nation of New Zealand and hopefully help the game build upon what the Warriors have already done for our game in the nation.