By Liam Emerton
With the 17th team in the NRL set to be named early next week, the impact on the local rugby league competition can only be positive.
The Central Queensland Capras have already formed an official alliance with the Brisbane Firehawks and CQ Today understands that the Intrust Super Cup club also has deals in the works with both the Brisbane (Ipswich) Jets and Redcliffe Dolphins.
That means that local players will no longer have to sacrifice moving away from Central Queensland to pursue a career in the NRL.
For Rockhampton Rugby League president Mick Johns, the 17th team expansion can only mean good things for players in our local competition.
“We lose so many kids, once they leave school, they move out of the area to just to move to Brisbane for an opportunity,“ he said.
“They don’t need to do that anymore. We can keep our young talent in the area.
“They can see the pathways now from schoolboys to local league to Capras and there’s just one direct line now.
“It’s beneficial for the players because they’re in an environment they feel secure in.
“They don’t need to move form their home and be away from their friends and family.
“It’s only a positive and it’s a positive for their minds.“
The NRL believes it can turn 200,000 rugby league fans into supporters of a new franchise after all but locking in expansion to a 17th team for 2023.
Club bosses were told on Thursday that the NRL was set for its first expansion in 14 years after being sold the figures on adding an extra side.
It is understood ARL Commission chair Peter V’landys addressed the meeting as if expansion was a formality, and there was little resistance from clubland.
At the latest, a new side will be announced by the end of October, allowing the franchise to hit the player market for 2023 at the same time as every other club on 1 November.
The Redcliffe-based bid remains the frontrunner, ahead of the Brisbane Easts-backed Firehawks and the Brisbane Jets.
Home games will be played out of Suncorp Stadium, offering the Brisbane Broncos a cross-town rival and Queensland a fourth club.
The expansion will result in 12 extra games per season, with two byes for each team.
The move comes off the back of a $50 million surplus shown to clubs on Thursday, as well as a $100 million kicker from News Corp for five years.
It’s also believed the move to a 17-team competition also has the backing of the Nine Network, the code’s free-to-air broadcaster.
Club bosses were also told at Thursday’s meeting the NRL is close to securing a new free-to-air deal, as well as the naming rights sponsorship with both expiring at the end of 2022.
Once that is complete, the NRL will begin formal negotiations on club funding from 2023 and beyond.
Clubs have been told they will be better off with a 17th franchise with more money in the game, but it remains to be seen if they will receive the extra $1.5 million per season some have asked for.
Regardless, the NRL is adamant they can attract more fans, sponsors and viewers by expanding the competition.
Data from a three years of research has shown the NRL there are 200,000 followers of the code in Queensland who do not currently support a team.
The league believes it will be able to turn them into fans of the new franchise, as well as drawing others in from the region.
They are also buoyed that there are just six men’s professional sporting clubs in Brisbane, compared to 17 in both Melbourne and Sydney.
– with Scott Bailey and Murray Wenzel, AAP