NRL expansion is all but certain and Brisbane will finally have its second team to rival the Broncos with ARLC chairman Peter V’landys set to make the announcement on expansion after the grand final.
The Brisbane Firehawks, Brisbane Jets and Redcliffe Dolphins have presented their cases to the Australian Rugby League Commission for inclusion as the 17th franchise into the National Rugby League for the 2023 season.
It is vital the ALRC does what is best for the growth of the game, rather than simply taking on the bid with the most cash. Of course, the successful bid must be financially viable, but that is only one part of what is required to secure the future of the game in south-east Queensland.
V’landys was adamant that expansion will only occur as long as the bids would not cannibalise the Brisbane Broncos, Gold Coast Titans or the North Queensland Cowboys. From that perspective, surely the Firehawks would have to be a concern for the ARLC.
The Firehawks bid are basing themselves in the inner south-eastern suburbs of Brisbane which is rusted on Broncos territory. They believe they can leverage on a north-south divide and are practically telling the Broncos; “you can have the northside and we will take the southside”.
Although the Firehawks bid is driven by Queensland Cup club Easts Tigers – who are a current feeder club for the Melbourne Storm – they will also be looking to share the Broncos 13,000 strong player/junior base, as well as competing with the Broncos for corporate and sponsorship dollars, which may be a detriment to the Broncos future success on and off the field.
Putting the Broncos aside, the Firehawks also want to represent and tap into the junior base of the Brisbane’s western corridor, the regions which the Jets bid represents. That would be the equivalent of the east-Sydney based Roosters believing they can service and win the hearts and minds of Parramatta and Penrith.
One of the many reasons the juniors within the western corridor regions are lost to the game is not only the lack of direct pathways to the NRL, but those who wish to pursue their dream to play first grade have to make the sacrifice in moving away from home, which many juniors and their parents are not willing to do, even if the Firehawks are only an hour away from Ipswich and nearly two hours from Toowoomba.
This will leave Brisbane’s western corridor unrepresented in the NRL which would be counterproductive to one of the main objectives of expansion into the greater Brisbane regions – combating the AFL.
The AFL and Brisbane Lions have already spent millions invading these regions, targeting their juniors, and leaving their own footprint with the Lions already shifting their home base to the Ipswich suburb of Springfield.
Unless you’re a devoted Easts Tigers supporter from the south-east suburbs of Stones Corner or Coorparoo, the majority of Brisbane metro are rusted on Broncos supporters. The Jets and Dolphins bids already have a rich rugby league history in Queensland and would immediately have a large supporter base who would flock to Suncorp Stadium in droves.
The Firehawks have promised the Broncos that they will not poach their players or sponsors and promised the Titans they will not invade their juniors on the Gold Coast and Northern rivers regions for the first two years of the clubs existence.
So, apparently after two years it will be fair game and the Firehawks can cannibalise away.
There is also the question of whether they can sell their unpopular brand beyond the south-east suburbs of Brisbane.
Rugby league heartlands of Ipswich, Toowoomba, Moreton Bay, Sunshine Coast and Central Queensland – all of which are some of the fastest growing areas in Australia – will have no connection to the Firehawks whatsoever.
Although the Firehawks bid has an impressive business model and are very strong financially, they leave a lot to be desired in regard to support and to the future growth of the game.
The Broncos have rightfully represented all of metropolitan Brisbane for 33 years and the Firehawks want to take half the city away from them. That is cannibalising the Broncos.
And there is no real logic in wedging another team between Broncos territory and Titans territory.
Whereas the other two bids (Jets and Dolphins) have their own fast-growing outer-Brisbane regions which they are based and want to proudly represent.
Feature photo: Courtesy of @veggleton (Twitter)