NRL Expansion Discussion

NRL Expansion Discussion

This thread is for discussion related to the NRL’s intention to expand the competiton significantly in the next 3 years (by 2026 and 2027).

The ARL Commission is planning to expand the NRL to a 20-team competition in the biggest shake up since the Super League war of the 1990s.

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys and Sydney Roosters supremo Nick Politis are behind a $400 million plan that would see rugby league become Australia’s No. 1 football code by the 2032 Brisbane Olympics.

Fox Sports [link]

There are several Bids already seeking entry into the NRL, fighting for potentially 3 spots in the coming years.

North Sydney Bears

After the Northern Eagles went defunct, the North Sydney Bears have continued to field teams in several grades of the NSW rugby league competitions, and were behind the failed Central Coast Bears bid in the mid-2000’s. But the Bears have expressed their intent on eventually returning the brand to the NRL competition. In 2018 they’d explored the possibility of establishing a ‘Western Bears’ franchise based in Perth.

On October 27, 2021, the Bears revealed their intention to return to the NRL, coinciding with a new logo. The proposed franchise, to be known simply as ‘The Bears’, would split home matches between various regional centres as well as major cities that are otherwise currently without NRL representation, allocating between four and six games at a potentially upgraded North Sydney Oval

Papua New Guinea

In October 2008, a Papua New Guinea Rugby Football League NRL bid team was launched with government funding and support. An official website was launched in September 2009 detailing the progress of the PNG bid and its aim to provide social and economic benefits for the country as a whole. The Papua New Guinea Hunters, founded in 2014, have since joined the Queensland Cup and won the 2017 title.

In February 2021, PNG Prime Minister James Marape declared his hopes of an NRL side in the country by 2025.


Since the Western Reds were not included in the NRL’s inaugural season, Perth is the largest Australian city without a team in the competition. Advocates for a Perth-based team have argued it is necessary for the NRL to consider itself a ‘truly national’ competition. The Reds name was revived in 2006 as the WA Reds, competing in the under-18s S.G. Ball Cup with the intention of eventually fielding an NRL side. The team rebranded as the West Coast Pirates in 2012 and continued competing in the S.G. Ball Cup until the COVID-19 pandemic prevented them from being able to compete from 2020 onwards. In April 2021, ARLC commissioner Peter Beattie claimed that Western Australia was “years away” from having an NRL team.

WA businessman Tony Sage, who owns A-League club Perth Glory, registered the name West Coast Quokkas in April 2021, as a potential name for a new NRL side in the state.

Former Reds chairman Laurie Puddy has also been invested in reintroducing a Perth-based NRL side. In May 2021, he hit out at the NRL’s prioritisation of a second New Zealand team over a Perth team, calling it “immoral”. In October, he revealed plans to revive the Reds name. He suggested such a team could be ready to begin competing in 2024, the year after the Dolphins are due to begin play, and could also attract crowds of 20,000 at Perth’s HBF Park.

Southern Orcas (Christchurch NZ)

In March 2021, NRL CEO Andrew Abdo suggested an 18th team could be based in New Zealand to create a rivalry with the New Zealand Warriors. So far the sole prospective bidder for a second New Zealand-based team is a resurrected Wellington Orcas bid led by former New Zealand Rugby League chair Andrew Chalmers. The proposed team, potentially under the name ‘Southern Orcas’, would play most home games at Sky Stadium and also take games to Christchurch and Dunedin.


There is an ongoing bid in Fiji for an NRL team. In 2019, whilst visiting Suva Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced he would support and fund the bid.


There has always been an ongoing debate about whether the Adelaide Rams should make a return to the NRL, with some even suggesting that the Rams join the NSW Cup before being progressed to the NRL. Supporters for an Adelaide Rams revival have organised online petitions with the aim of generating support for an NRL bid. The South Australian Ministry of Sport, Recreation and Racing have stated that they are actively researching on how to develop an Adelaide NRL franchise.

The North Sydney Bears have not ruled out the possibility of relocating to Adelaide. However, most communications as of 2022 imply that Perth is the club’s area of focus.

Descriptions of bids are sourced from Wikipedia article Expansion of the National Rugby League.

After discussions with a few different mates, and attending the Norths v Wests game in NSW cup today., it has got me thinking about when & where an 18th team might be added.

I think that the NRL won’t be waiting too long this time, as an uneven number of teams isn’t a great situation. I wouldn’t be surprised if an announcement is made next year or the year after, for another team to be added in 2025 or 2026.

As for where, there are a number of options.

Apparently the Bears have been in talks to relocate to Perth, playing a few games at North Sydney each year. While I would like to see them back, I don’t think this is a great set up. I think they would be better with their old idea of playing out of the Central Coast.

Perth would be a good option, but only if they are a stand alone team, with no ties to an existing Sydney Club.

Central Queensland, playing out of Rockhampton and/or Mackay is also another option that has come up in the past, which could be viable.

Promoting the Ipswich Jets could be another option, although coming so soon after the Dolphins may not be the best idea.

A second NZ team or a PNG team could also work.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see all of these options come into the competition eventually. Overseas options, and even Perth, would probably need a lot of help from the NRL to establish themselves, whereas the other options, especially the Jets, would probably establish themselves faster.

What are peoples thoughts?

My understanding is that the travel costs are all a part of the NRL budget for running the competition. If this is the case it should not affect Perth any more than any other club.

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Correct. But back then the ARL made them pay for the lot. It really makes you wonder if they really wanted the franchise to succeed.

I’d like to see a team back out in Perth. I feel the original side was setup to fail by the ARL (wether intentionally or unintentionally), and was a real prospect had it not been the victim of the ‘Super League War’.

I had head about ridiculous terms like having to pay for flights and accommodation for the opposing teams. Absolutely absurd, and was a financial dagger in that clubs heart.

Travel costs were the catalyst for the demise of the Reds as the club had to pay for the flights and accommodation of rival teams playing in Perth, as well as their own expenses for away games.

Source: NRL

The WA Bid has a lot to offer, a virtually untapped market that contains a lot of expat brits and a market that has an appetite for league, the state of origins they have hosted have been successful sellouts.

Also the time difference allows for a latter live game to be broadcast, Ideally they could play at 7:30pm on a Saturday and broadcast live to the east coast at 9:30pm allowing for a 4 game Saturday or 3 game Friday.

It’s hard to take seriously the claim of a NATIONAL Rugby League and only have teams on the East Coast.

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I don’t know how the “talent” pool will cope, but if we must have another team it has to be based in a thriving junior area such as Rockhampton.

We cannot afford another Melbourne blight on the game where they still don’t have ANY juniors. Be warned, the mighty Panthers area will be raped and pillaged by whoever they decide to go with. We need to somehow keep they junior desire to play for the local club. That is what needs to be built wherever they decide to go.

What is wrong with a NSW bush team, Temora, Dubbo etc etc we also need to take on the AFL tactics too

Just my 2 bobs


I think there is the talent pool to support 18 teams, even 20. The problem is clubs shirking their responsibility in growing the game and building a junior system that helps add to the talent pool.

I say it should be a condition of a NRL licence, build a club based junior system that adds to the talent pool of the NRL & NRLW competitions. If you don’t wish to comply, hand in your licence and the NRL will give it to a club that will.

It’s not hard to see what clubs are not putting in, and they should go on notice.


100% Steve, this nullifies my argument - Great Call

I’m my opinion there should be one mantra, grow the game or die.

This should be the most important metric in the NRL… “Is this team growing the game?”.

Rugby League can be as big a it want to be… 17 teams, 18 teams, 20 teams, 40 team in 2 conferences…

The limit is determined by two things:

  1. How much each club is committed to growing the game in it’s region through player pathways and promotion of Rugby League.

  2. How much money the NRL wants to commit to ensuring the success of those pathways.

But it begins by putting pressure on the current team to build the talent base and provide a value proposition to the teams to convince them that it works in their benefit in the long term.


One team I question the viability of is the Tigers. They do provide pathways, but the whole organisation needs an overhaul. I can see them folding within 5 years if they can’t turn things around soon.

First step for the tigers is to face reality and recognise that the future for them is at Campbelltown, not playing at Leichardt & Parramatta. They need to build a future in the SW.
They also need to accept that their problems over the past 15 years have nought to do with Ivan Cleary being there for literally 5 mins before realising he had made a big mistake in going there.


Yep, Mr Walker. If a club can’t make a go out of the enormous, sprawling Liverpool-Campbelltown-Camden area, it’s not serious. They must juniors en masse out there.


Typical business hypocrisy, teflon leaders who are NOT accountable

It won’t work. The NRL will want to have a new franchise out in Perth if thats the way they are going with the expansion. They will say the Bears will have to much ‘Sydney Baggage’ and to get the support out in WA they should start with a fresh slate.

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There should be no expansion until 2030. The fiasco with the Dolphins should show the NRL/ARLC the error of their ways. Sure, extra games for TV revenue sounds attractive, but the diminution of the game will have long term consequences.
There are just not enough players of NRL quality to have 18 teams, and. as we see with the dolphins, the new teams build their roster by just raiding other clubs, not by bringing in new players from their system.
They are just moving players from one club to another, inflating player payments in the process.
The winners are the non-development clubs with the best salary cap accountants.

As for the bears - they are dead and gone. I agree with Steve - any new club needs to be a start-up, building local support from the beginning.

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I agree that they shouldn’t be used as a proxy by another area. If they are going to come back it should be a North Sydney/Central Coast expansion.

Perth, or any other area for that matter should be a new entity that has no ties to an existing Sydney club.

I wonder which Penrith district club they’ll try to steal as their feeder club.

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I don’t think PNG will take the 18th spot. Olam raises some good points, and the NRL should pay attention. Because now would be a good time for the NRL to sit down with the PNG and Australian governments and get the ball rolling.

The thing is this… the NRL won’t stop at 18 teams. If I had to predict where the NRL will be by 2030, I would say 20 to 22 teams (in two conferences probably). So there will be room for PNG, but the foundations need to be set now, years in advance.

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Agreed. I think Perth has to be the next team, probably within 2-3 years.

The time will come for more expansions, and PNG will get there at some stage, the questions are when, and what needs to be done before they make a serious bid.