NRL bid leader tackles 'myth'
WESTERN Corridor bid chairman Steve Johnson has slammed claims Ipswich and the surrounding region does not have the population base and corporate clout to support a National Rugby League side.
He has also made it clear that the people of Ipswich would not support a relocated NRL team in the Western Corridor.
Johnson has refuted a report in the Sydney Morning Herald that quoted Brisbane NRL bid boss Craig Davison as saying that Ipswich was “smaller than Newcastle and would not have the same corporate support” as the Brisbane bid which has Centrebet as a major backer.
But Johnson said it was “a myth” that the Western Corridor catchment area did not have the pulling power required to field a team in the 2013 competition.
“It is a national game and a lot of the people approaching us are national companies looking for a national branding,” Johnson said.
“We have over 46,000 businesses and we are very confident that we have much greater corporate support here than a second side in Brisbane, which will be trying to dilute the Brisbane Broncos. We are having corporates coming to us wanting to be involved.
“The Australian Bureau of Statistics says that we will have 1.15 million people in the corridor region by 2030, which is only a heartbeat away in the scheme of life.
“At present we have just over 600,000 people in the corridor. The national average for a rugby league team is under 500,000 so we've already got a bigger population base than most rugby league teams in any event.
“We have the second largest population in Queensland and the most juniors in Australia with 9465, so I don't know what figures Craig is looking at. I was very disappointed that he would make a comment about our bid. He should concentrate on his own. We are focussed on our own.”
Yesterday Johnson and bid consultant Brian Canavan met with senior representatives of the Ipswich senior and junior leagues and with individual club officials to showcase their vision for the Western Corridor bid.
It has never been a consideration for the Western Corridor to entertain a relocated team in the region. Maroons great Gorden Tallis is against expansion, but for relocation. But Johnson said that was not an option for the bid team.
“David Gallop has already told me point blank that there will be no side relocated to South East Queensland,” Johnson said.
“If rugby league is going to expand, South East Queensland is one area that can sustain a side on its own. That is David's view.
“You wouldn't want to relocate a side in the Western Corridor because we want to start our club with a fresh vision where we look after the person first and the player second. The best way to have that implemented is to start afresh.
“The Western Corridor is its own area. We want and deserve our own team. We've got the junior base to support it.
“Relocation has never crossed my mind as an option for a second.
“The whole reason we are putting the bid forward is that we have got enough good young players in this country that you need an extra side.”