NRL Expansion Discussion

PNG makes more sense than Perth. We should NOT consider teams in the short term who have no junior production, our comp cannot sustain itself as it is with the limited talent.

If you short change the spectacle for the anticipated $$$ return, you are asking for trouble…and it will come in time. Us old head footy fans have corrupted our kids to a point, but if their desire to support wains, the game itself will be F@#$ed.

I’m not sure what you mean @Kevin.

The WARL Junior league is fairly comprehensive, their local competition consists of almost 30 teams with grades ranging from Under 15’s to a State League.

Their state junior league has produced NRL talent such as Curtis Rona, Waqa Blake and Bryson Goodwin.

The support for a side is there, sellouts in Perth hosted State of Origin over the past few year have shown their thirst for Rugby League.

Perths time difference also is a dream for the Networks looking to deliver more live primetime football, you can go into a game live in Sydney and hold a live game later in the evening, to a live audience in Perth.

the “limited talent” argument can be made for PNG too. A lack of a comprehensive junior system there would put them a fair way Perth as a viable side, not to mention the security concerns over player safety.

This doesn’t mean neither don’t deserve a NRL licence, quite the opposite. There is a desire for Rugby League in these regions, it’s the NRL mandate to exploit that opportunity and help build these junior systems. They need money and expertise pumped in to bring them to their potential.

But as far as expansion, WA is much further down that path in development than PNG.

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Fair enough Steve, I wasn’t aware of the WA junior comps, my comments were naive and obviously impacted by the Perth Reds debacle.

Your comment re SOO also a factor hence the $$$ grab comment. Let’s not lose focus, the Perth Reds had good crowds when they kicked off, then home games were empty. NRL games are a different beast to SOO played once every how many years…

My short-minded mindset is that PNG are in the QLD cup, surely we (they) are establishing pathways to support this, they are footy mad. If not the NRL have missed the boat there.

IMO we need a 2nd side in NZ to take on Rugby, the All Blacks are not what they used to be (matter of time before they fix that) and the Kiwi league team are full of champions, surely that is a marketing dream.


Ideally the NRL needs to add 3 to 5 more teams.

Perth, Adelaide, PNG, NZ2, QLD4 and Pacific Islands are all good candidates.


Perth, Ipswich & Central Queensland could all probably start up relatively quickly, and are likely to be the next 3 anyway.

NZ has the talent pool there, but still have to battle the Rugby for players, which is probably the biggest thing holding them back at the moment.

The Bears, playing between North Sydney & the Central Coast could probably also get up & running quickly. The North Sydney demographics have moved away from league, but the Central Coast could provide the junior pathways for them.

The talent is there in PNG, Fiji. Tonga & Samoa, but they probably need to work on the grassroots a bit more before making a bid.

I’d be keen to see Adelaide return, and also teams in Darwin & Hobart, but think there would need to be a lot of building from the ground up to make any of them a reality. Probably all a good 20 years away from even being considered a possibility.

A few other areas that could be possibilities in the future would be Riverina (playing out of Albury or Wagga Wagga), Northern NSW (playing out of Coffs Harbour or Port Macquarie), and Central West (playing out of Dubbo). All 3 areas provide a number of players already, and with the right structure in place could succeed.

I think the experience of the 80s & 90s, where we had a fast expansion & contraction, will see the NRL err on the side of caution when it comes to expanding. An 18th team in the next few years should happen, but I think further expansion will probably be at least 10 years away, giving the Dolphins & whoever becomes the 18th team time to settle in & build some success on & off the field before the pie gets divided any further.

As an indication of how crazy the 80s & especially 90s were for Rugby League, here is a brief rundown of the changes over the years:

Newcastle 1908


Newcastle 08


St George








Gold Coast-Tweed Giants

Gold Coast-Tweed Giants rebranded as Gold Coast Seagulls

Canterbury rebranded as Sydney Bulldogs
Balmain rebranded as Sydney Tigers
Easts rebranded as Sydney City
North Queensland
South Queensland
Western Reds

Gold Coast Seagulls rebranded as Gold Coast Gladiators in pre-season, before being rebranded Gold Coast Chargers for the season proper
Sydney Bulldogs revert to Canterbury

Super League split
Sydney Tigers revert to Balmain

ARL & Super League merge to create the NRL
South Queensland
Western Reds

St George & Illawarra merge to form St George-Illawarra Dragons
Gold Coast Chargers

Balmain & Wests merge to form Wests Tigers
Norths & Manly merge to form Northern Eagles
Sydney City rebranded as Sydney Roosters

Auckland rebranded as New Zealand


Northern Eagles de-merge with Manly taking over the licence, Norths removed from NRL

Gold Coast Titans

The Dolphins


I paid a visit to Norths Leagues Club yesterday while I was in the area.

To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. Their entire merchandise was 1 shelf in the lobby with about 3 jerseys, 5 scarves. 10 bar runners, a book & a heap of coasters. There was a cabinet with some old memorabilia out of sight near the back entrance.

Apart from that it looked like your average bowling club.

For a club that is making some noise about becoming the 18th team, it appears to be little more than hot air. They have a long way to go if they want to be readmitted to the competition.

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I keep forgetting to reply to this thread :scream:!

I reckon it’s a forgone conclusion that PNG will be the 18th team, for reasons other than the obvious.

From media reporting it appears the commonwealth are going to fund the team as part of regional security, economic development and warding off PNG from the temptation of China.

It would have to be a long term commitment of course, but ~$20-30M per year is drop in the ocean compared to the foreign aid budget.

The logistics will be interesting of course, and while there is also talk of combining this with a “Pacifika” team (e.g. possibly playing 1 game a year in Fiji, Samoa, Tonga etc), one thing for sure is the locals would go mad for an NRL team, and the junior nursery is almost unlimited, as long as some of the funds go towards junior development / local comp, and not just for funding politicians to sit in luxury boxes.

Of other alternatives, Central Queensland (Rockhampton Bulls) would be most logical. Perth while maybe having money would just me another Melbourne lacking local leagues, a South Island NZ team would be like the warriors, a poor cousin to rugby (although would set up a good provincial series to rival SOO).

Then there is the nationwide expansion ideal of teams from Darwin, Adelaide (Rams), Tasmania (which would really rub AFL noses in it, although they would be another Melbourne storm).

I have had a thought how to deal with this, including the bears, Newtown, Ipswich and anyone else with NRL ambitions (Glebe, Annandale, Wenty etc). Run a pre-season or summer comp, with the top 3 teams each year getting a pass into the NRL, making it a 20 team comp.

A form of promotion / relegation of course, but the 17 NRL clubs would have certainty, and the rest would get a chance every year if they are good enough.

If the same teams each year are competing for the NRL final 3 qualifying spots, their would be opportunity to have a national 2nd division competition, formed by those teams that don’t make the NRL (and maybe NRL reserve grade / feeder teams).

Food for thought

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I don’t know if I’d say PNG are a forgone conclusion, but I think it will come down to them & Perth. Either way, they will probably be the next 2, with either Central Coast Bears or Central Queensland being added to the competition for 20 teams.

I think the timeline we are looking at will be along the lines of:

Late 2023/early 2024, open tenders for 18th team to be added in 2026 or 2027.

Late 2024/early 2025, announcement of who the 18th team will be.

2032, open tenders for 19th & 20th teams, to be added 2035.

2033, announcement of who the 19th & 20th teams will be.

A PNG has a whole range of issues, many that will require the intervention of both PNG and Australian governments. The most pressing will be security of players at games and in PNG.

The Albanese Government has made comments in supporting the idea of including PNG in the NRL is come capacity, but details were light.

The the NRL are looking to expand in the next few years, from a financial standpoint, Western Australia would seem to be the most far along in that process.

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This is an example of what I mean about issues that need addressing…

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20 teams by the time of the Brisbane Olympics!!!

The Bears, Perth & a Pasifika team playing out of Cairns as possibilities!!!

NRL in talks for 20-team competition in $400m masterplan

Staff Writers | Fox Sports | 12th March 2023

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.

News Corp reports 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.

Expansion side the Dolphins, based in southeast Queensland, have made a red-hot start to the new NRL season with stunning wins over the Roosters and Canberra Raiders.

And the NRL wants to keep growing by adding three more teams to the competition to capitalise on rugby league strongholds.

V’landys confirmed there had been discussions about a 20-team competition at an Annual General Meeting of clubs.

“I am all for looking at a 20-team competition because you have to set yourself goals,” he said.

According to News Corp, three new expansion teams are believed to be worth $20 million in annual funding support for the next 20 years — a $400 million windfall for the NRL.

A Pasifika franchise is the leading contender to win a licence to an 18th NRL team, and would be based full-time in Cairns, hosting several games in Samoa, Tonga and Papua Guinea.

There is also talk of the beloved North Sydney Bears being part of a merger with a Pasifika team to bring the Bears back to top flight rugby league for the first time since 1999.

The Australian government will provide tens of millions of dollars in financial support to help fund a Pasifika team.

Teams in the mix for expansion licences including North Sydney, a Pasifika bid, a second New Zealand team, PNG, Perth and Brisbane’s Firehawks and Jets. V’landys also said “never say never” when asked about a possible Adelaide team.

The 20-team plan would be the biggest shake up to Australia’s rugby league landscape in 30 years.

The ARL expanded from 16 clubs to 20 in 1995, adding the North Queensland Cowboys, South Queensland Crushers, Auckland Warriors and Perth’s Western Reds.

The 20-team format only lasted two seasons before the Super League war, which led to two rival competitions in 1997 before a compromise triggered the birth of the National Rugby League in 1998.

“Yes, I have suggested we go to 20 teams,” Politis told News Corp.

NRL CEO Andrew Abdo and V’landys are reportedly open to announcing an 18th NRL team in time for the next TV rights deal in 2027, before adding the 19th and 20th teams within the next decade.


PNG Rugby League representatives tour Penrith and Manly’s facilities ahead of bid to become NRL’s 18th team

Jack Mahony | Sky News | 20th March 2023


Representatives from Papua New Guinea Rugby League have toured several NRL clubs ahead of a bid to become the competition’s 18th team.

Following the Dolphin’s early success in its first season, calls for further expansion and another team in the NRL have grown louder with a Pasifika team looking the likely destination.

PNGRL chairman Sandis Tsaka, chief executive Stanley Hondina and strategic advisor to PNG’s 2025 NRL bid team Andrew Hill all travelled around Sydney visiting NRL clubs to view their facilities over the weekend.

The trio visited the Penrith Panthers to check out the its academy and pathways program which has seen the club filled with highly skilled local juniors representing at the top level.

Mr Hill said the bid to become the 18th NRL team would be largely based off creating a similarly successful pathways program to utilise the young rugby league players in PNG.

“The primary focus was to look at pathway and development structures because that will underpin all our work. We want to make sure our foundations are right,” he said, according to the Daily Telegraph.

“The first step of the bid team is focusing on 14 to 20-year-olds in PNG.

“A good part of our trip was understanding how Penrith develop their junior players both at Penrith and in regional areas. When you look at what we will be doing in PNG and potentially the Pacific Islands, we need to have a regional academy model.”

The touring party were also invited to attend Manly’s match against Parramatta and view their facilities.

They also have plans to continue conversations with the federal government about its bid.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visited PNG earlier in the year and declared his support for a new NRL team to come from the country.

“I’m very keen to see a rugby league team participate in the NRL that would be based in Papua New Guinea and involve our Pacific Island friends,” Mr Albanese said at the time.

“That’s something that we’ve had discussions about and I’ve discussed with the National Rugby League. There are no greater friends than Australia and Papua New Guinea – tomorrow’s visit will cement that.”

The NRL has plans to potentially expand the competition to up to 20 teams in the coming years with existing clubs like the North Sydney Bears being considered as a relocation option.

Perth, Cairns, another New Zealand side or a team representing the Pacific Islands are also being considered but there is no clear plan set in place for the NRL’s expansion.


If my memory serves me correctly, the last time that there was an odd number of teams, this issue of refreshed teams after the bye was relevant. But would it be a problem if the burden was apportioned fairly? In that past instance, it should have meant that every team played a fresh team twice. But it was actually arranged so that almost all teams only suffered that handicap once. How can that be, you ask? Easy. Just make Penrith play the fresh team on 13 occasions. Yep, that’s right - THIRTEEN TIMES. And yes, you’re right; there wasn’t a squeak in the media about any unfairness. In fact all the vested interests seemed to line up to explain how those ‘fresh’ teams were actually at a disadvantage because they lost some cohesion (or other bullshit - said with a straight face). The moral was - you lot out there are in a backwater, so just lay down and enjoy being screwed. Money talks.


Ok my 2c;

A chance to take a trip down memory lane and bring back two much loved teams (albeit in different forms);

  1. The Ipswich/ Newtown Jets - playing 10+ home games at Ipswich, with a “return to Henson Park” game or two. Strip is blue and white stripes , with away strip green blue and white V

  2. The Bundy Bears - as per above plating most games in Bundaberg, a game or two at Nortg Sydney - colours red and black.

  3. The Pacific Roadies - playing 6 games in Darwin (not Cairns as this would dilute the Cowboys) the remainder as a traveling team playing in PNG, Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands and Fiji. A 2nd division comp with teams from the above pacific countries plus NT, to build the game up north.

Two other worthy contenders if we want to go to a 22 team comp;

Western Reds
Christchurch Angels

Plus another 2 out of the following 3 for a 24 team comp (2 conferences of 12 with each team playing each other twice for 23 rounds);

Adelaide Rams
Hobart Brewers (up you AFL!)
Wellington Wind (NZ)

Ok, these later teams are somewhat wishful thinking

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I have to admit that while I like the idea of a Pasifika team, I don’t think Cairns is the place for them. They would be better off basing themselves in one of the nations, and taking 1-2 home games to each of the other nations per season. For example, based in Tonga (6 games), with 2 games each on Samoa, Fiji & PNG.

As for Perth, I’d prefer to see the Western Reds revived than the current idea of the “Perth Pirates”.

The biggest obstacle to expansion is logistics.
Best go back to the 12 team Sydney comp :grinning:

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If this is any indication, Pasifika in 2027 seems to be the favoured option.