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NRL dithering on expansion is "hurting the game"

GIVE US A TEAM: Western Corridor NRL bid chief Steve Johnson is adamant that expansion in Ipswich is a must for the game to prosper.
GIVE US A TEAM: Western Corridor NRL bid chief Steve Johnson is adamant that expansion in Ipswich is a must for the game to prosper.

THE NRL's dithering on expansion is hurting the fans of the game in Ipswich and stalling player pathways

That is the view of Western Corridor bid chief Steve Johnson.

Perth and south-east Queensland are favoured to receive expansion sides when the game decides to hit the go button.

The two leading NRL expansion teams in south-east Queensland are the Ipswich-based Western Corridor NRL bid and the Brisbane Bombers.

NRL head of football Todd Greenberg said recently that NRL expansion in Queensland would not occur during the current broadcast deal.

While acknowledging it was not off the table in the cycle of the next deal, he did not provide any clarity on what the NRL's strategy was.

"The expansion market of rugby league is being punished, and that is the fans and supporters, and we as clubs can only come into the competition at their invitation" Johnson says.

"When you look at the Queensland demographic, we have 40 per cent of the rugby league players represented by three NRL clubs.

"That is ridiculous.

"Clubs like our Western Corridor side need to be brought in because we will create new markets and expand the current market.

"When you have people knowing there is a game at Suncorp Stadium every Friday night they will get into that regular pattern of going to football.

"The Broncos will be getting bigger crowds, and when you are dealing with rugby league heartland like Ipswich and the Western Corridor you will bring in hopefully another 20,000 fans to support our team, so you are growing the game."

Greenberg has said that "a whole pile" of the 16 NRL clubs are going broke and that expansion would not occur while that continued, an argument Johnson rejects.

"They talk about clubs going broke, well they will continue to go broke if they follow the model they currently have," he said.

"You can't say we won't expand the game because clubs are going broke. That is the wrong way of looking at it.

"That is just a defeatist attitude and not a visionary business plan.

'If you bring in our club and we become as successful as the Broncos, when we go to their home grounds we are going to help them get bigger crowds.

"We will help them with their monetary problems."

Johnson is a big believer that no NRL club has a God-given right to exist, and that hard decisions must be made with those that continually fail to measure up.

"The difficult conversation to have is that the current NRL clubs see themselves as having a sense of entitlement to be funded by the game, because they are the public face of the game," he said.

"I am not a proponent of traditional clubs being kicked out for no valid reason.

"They need to be given the chance to succeed and given the KPIs of professionalism, player development, crowds, marketing and the like…and supported for a period if time.

"If they don't meet their KPIs then some hard decisions need to be made."

Topics:  ipswich jets ipswich rugby league nrl steve johnson western corridor nrl



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