IDEAL ARENA: Acting Ipswich Mayor Paul Tully and Western Corridor bid chairman Steve Johnson outside Suncorp Stadium.
IDEAL ARENA: Acting Ipswich Mayor Paul Tully and Western Corridor bid chairman Steve Johnson outside Suncorp Stadium. David Nielsen

Ipswich NRL bid ramps up the expansion push

A COMMERCIAL bonus to the NRL, the game of rugby league and Ipswich - and a major boost to the lives of young men in the city.

That is what the Western Corridor NRL bid will do for all stakeholders, insists bid chairman Steve Johnson and Acting Mayor Paul Tully.

As part of the Ipswich City Council's continued support of the bid, the duo has ramped up the call for the NRL to put expansion firmly back on the table.

Cr Tully has drafted a letter to send to NRL head of football Brian Canavan outlining the benefits of the club to the game, the city and its youth.

Johnson, who helped draft the NRL bid document proposal with the late Arthur Beetson and Canavan, said the Sydney clubs' fears about the impact of expansion were unfounded.

Those fears in a nutshell are that an extra team, or two teams, would mean less of the salary cap pie for them. But the Western Corridor bid chairman said an Ipswich-based team would grow the pie and be a commercial boon to the game.

"They think they are going to share the same pie with 18 teams instead of 16,” Johnson said. "But we have always said that it is not about there being too many sides in Sydney.

"There are not enough sides in Queensland and we can grow and expand the game and make the pie bigger for them.

"We are going to get 30,000 people every second week at Suncorp Stadium and we will be able to recruit and retain a very high quality rugby league team in a short time.

"We will take games to Sydney and elsewhere and they will have bigger crowds with representative stars playing in those matches.

"But we will also grow the game and make the pie bigger commercially.”

Having more games at Suncorp Stadium and providing greater exposure for the game, Johnson said would see "the television rights become more valuable''.

Johnson said that exclusivity rights for sponsorship in a one-team city means that there were a raft of car, insurance and other companies that want to sponsor an NRL club but couldn't.

"In Brisbane you have sponsors in categories and the Broncos can get one of those, but there are two or three up here,” he said.

"Those sponsors are lost to our game, but they can become part of our game.”

The laundry list of great players to come out of the region - from Noel Kelly and Dud Beattie through to Allan Langer and the Walters brothers - goes without saying.

Cr Tully said a new side in Ipswich was a "no-brainer” for the NRL.

"This will be the biggest boost for the NRL, not only in Ipswich but also in Queensland, to have another team in the south-east corner,” Cr Tully said.

"The team will serve Ipswich and the western corridor, and in that context I see the western corridor stretching to Toowoomba.

"It would be a team that would be ready made to have a huge supporter base.

"The economic benefits for Ipswich would be immense, and it would match the push by the AFL into Ipswich with the Brisbane Lions setting up their training and admini- stration facility in the city.

"It is a huge opportunity for players who will not be lost to the city. They can play for a team in the city where they live.”

Cr Tully said the NRL had procrastinated for too long about expansion.

"They should make a decision and let Ipswich move forward,” he said.

"It is a no-brainer that Ipswich should be the host for the next NRL team in Queensland.

"Some of the best minds in rugby league have been involved in the push to get an NRL team in Ipswich.

"Ipswich City Council has been supporting this for a number of years and we want to reignite the bid.”

The Ipswich City Council has never wavered from the plan to bring an elite sporting team to Ipswich, Johnson said.

"We have already seen the AFL take the ground that rugby league helped get re-gifted back to the council which was intended for our NRL team,” he said.

"But because we don't have a team, the AFL is going to take it.

"The Ipswich City Council quite rightly has a strategy of attracting elite sporting teams to Ipswich.

"We are backing Ipswich City Council's continued strategy to support elite sport in Ipswich and for us that is rugby league.

"The people of Ipswich need to support that for the greater good of our young people and the commercial growth of our city.”

Ipswich City Council's sports boss Cr David Morrison said that while expansion had been mooted at various stages, there was no clarity from the NRL.

He noted the view of the NRL that existing teams needed to be strengthened before new ones were brought in.

"But when David Gallop was the CEO of the NRL he noted that the western corridor was the place for the NRL to be focussed on for expansion,” Cr Morrison said.

"We still fully support that and as a council we helped fund a study with Rugby League Ipswich and the Ipswich Jets that was going to be presented to the NRL when they announced expansion, but that never happened despite many rumours.

"But when they do announce it we will be on the mark and ready to go with our proposal.”



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