Infotainment Factory: Broncos legend’s plea over NRL expansion

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Sunday, 24 March 2019

Broncos legend’s plea over NRL expansion


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A second Brisbane NRL team should be a brand-new franchise based in the heart of the city, Broncos great and current director Darren Lockyer says.

Lockyer shared his thoughts on a potential new Brisbane side with Wide World of Sports, speaking out against the prospect of relocating or eliminating a Sydney team.

He said that while there would be obvious impacts on the Broncos, Brisbane was ready for another NRL franchise.

“I think there’s enough corporate dollars in Brisbane. It might impact the Titans somewhat, so the NRL might have to consider that,” said Lockyer, a Channel Nine commentator.

“The Broncos aren’t everyone’s cup of tea in Brisbane, so I think a second team would be supported from the fan base.”

NRL legend Darren Lockyer will appear on Nine’s 100% Footy on Monday night, joining James Bracey and Phil Gould to discuss rugby league’s biggest issues. Watch at 10pm (AEDT)!

Lockyer also said that for now, the NRL should not expand by more than one team; which would take the competition to 17 clubs.

Here are the big talking points from the Broncos icon on how a second Brisbane team (or potentially a Perth franchise) should be handled.

A NEW FRANCHISE, NO SYDNEY LOSSES

Lockyer believes that relocating a Sydney team to Brisbane would be difficult for a new fan base to accept – “initially it would be really hard” – and is staunchly against losing an existing Sydney club.

He thinks that a new franchise is the best option, giving fans the chance to take the journey with their team from day one.

“A bit like the Broncos did in 1988,” Lockyer said.

“They had that Brisbane base, because all those players came from the Brisbane Rugby League. Everyone that’s been a Broncos fan has been on that journey. I’m sure for a new franchise it would be no different.”

Lockyer said that rugby league would be poorer if it sacrificed a Sydney club. Not counting the joint ventures, the ‘newest’ Sydney clubs are Penrith and Cronulla, who joined the NSWRL in 1967. The Sharks have been named as an at-risk team, as have Manly, who have been in the competition since 1947.

“One thing I reckon we’ve got to stop saying is that nine clubs won’t work in Sydney. We’ve got to find ways to make it work,” Lockyer said.

“Everyone keeps dismissing it and saying, ‘It’s too many clubs in Sydney’, but why don’t we make it work? There’s so much history there and it would be a shame to lose some of that.

“The clubs that are the oldest have got quite a wide-ranging fan base. You’ve got people that have been following them since they were young and have followed them for 60-70 years, and then the new fans. The Dragons, the Rabbitohs, all those clubs, there’s always plenty of fans coming to Brisbane games to watch them play.

“I’m just an advocate that the history of clubs is where they are now. If you can’t preserve that, it’s a shame. We lost Souths there for a while and they came back, but the North Sydney Bears, there’s all that history there … unfortunately they can’t get a gig.

“I’m saying a new franchise, on the basis that we’re trying to look after the tradition and history of the clubs down in Sydney.”

JUST ONE NEW TEAM FOR NOW

Adding just one team would not add another match per round for broadcasters and would mean that at least one team every week has a bye; for those reasons, NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said potential expansion of the competition would likely be by two teams, to a total of 18.

Yet Lockyer believes that beyond those reasons, it’s not ideal for the NRL. A thinning-out of player talent is one concern, while Lockyer says it would also impact a new club’s chances of success, given the NRL would have a split focus.

“Eighteen’s not the answer. That sort of dilutes the product,” he said.

“I know that gets you more money from a broadcast deal, but I don’t think that’s what the priority should be. If we’re talking about growing the game, I’m happy to grow the game by one team, but trying to preserve the Sydney teams.

“Not [18 teams] straight away. If we’re starting up a new franchise in Brisbane or Perth, then it’s one club that you can really get behind. The NRL can do what they have to do to get them up and established; there can be a real focus on the one club that comes in. I think when you bring two in at once, maybe it dilutes the impact of that new club. Small steps.”

A big part of the appeal for broadcasters is the opportunity to show two matches per week that appeal to the rugby league-mad Brisbane market; hence the reason why Brisbane looks vastly more likely than Perth to host any new NRL team.

BRISBANE PROPER, NOT OUTER AREAS

The idea of basing a second Brisbane team in outer reaches such as Redcliffe or Ipswich – home to powerful QRL clubs - has been floated. It needs to be based in Brisbane proper, Lockyer says.

“I just wonder if there’s enough commercial dollars, sponsorship dollars, in those Ipswich and Redcliffe areas to get the most money through the door,” Lockyer said.

“They’ve got to play out of Suncorp. That doesn’t mean Ipswich or Redcliffe couldn’t play out of Suncorp, but I think the sponsorship dollars are in Brisbane itself.

“It [expansion] has been on the agenda for a while and I’ve got confidence the NRL are going to do a lot of due diligence on all options. I’ve got a lot of faith they’ll make the right decision.”

Another team in Brisbane proper would give the Broncos a new rival right on their doorstep; a competitor for corporate dollars and junior talent. Brisbane has already seen its gigantic junior nursery divvied up by the North Queensland, Gold Coast and Melbourne clubs.

“There’s no doubt it would have an impact on the Broncos’ business, from a commercial perspective and from a recruitment/development perspective,” Lockyer said.

“It is what it is. At the end of the day, the decision will be the NRL’s; it’s got nothing to do with the Broncs.

“For a long time now anyway, it doesn’t have to be the Queensland clubs or the Storm [competing for juniors]. Everyone’s out there looking across the country for talent. It’s a competitive space and you do what you can.”

The Broncos still count Redcliffe, Ipswich, Northern Suburbs, Souths Logan and Wynnum Manly as senior affiliates; five affiliate clubs is the most in the NRL, ahead of the Cowboys with three. No Sydney club has more than one.

A second Brisbane NRL team should be a brand-new franchise based in the heart of the city, Broncos great and current director Darren Lockyer says.

Lockyer shared his thoughts on a potential new Brisbane side with Wide World of Sports, speaking out against the prospect of relocating or eliminating a Sydney team.

He said that while there would be obvious impacts on the Broncos, Brisbane was ready for another NRL franchise.

“I think there’s enough corporate dollars in Brisbane. It might impact the Titans somewhat, so the NRL might have to consider that,” said Lockyer, a Channel Nine commentator.

“The Broncos aren’t everyone’s cup of tea in Brisbane, so I think a second team would be supported from the fan base.”

NRL legend Darren Lockyer will appear on Nine’s 100% Footy on Monday night, joining James Bracey and Phil Gould to discuss rugby league’s biggest issues. Watch at 10pm (AEDT)!

Lockyer also said that for now, the NRL should not expand by more than one team; which would take the competition to 17 clubs.

Here are the big talking points from the Broncos icon on how a second Brisbane team (or potentially a Perth franchise) should be handled.

A NEW FRANCHISE, NO SYDNEY LOSSES

Lockyer believes that relocating a Sydney team to Brisbane would be difficult for a new fan base to accept – “initially it would be really hard” – and is staunchly against losing an existing Sydney club.

He thinks that a new franchise is the best option, giving fans the chance to take the journey with their team from day one.

“A bit like the Broncos did in 1988,” Lockyer said.

“They had that Brisbane base, because all those players came from the Brisbane Rugby League. Everyone that’s been a Broncos fan has been on that journey. I’m sure for a new franchise it would be no different.”

Lockyer said that rugby league would be poorer if it sacrificed a Sydney club. Not counting the joint ventures, the ‘newest’ Sydney clubs are Penrith and Cronulla, who joined the NSWRL in 1967. The Sharks have been named as an at-risk team, as have Manly, who have been in the competition since 1947.

“One thing I reckon we’ve got to stop saying is that nine clubs won’t work in Sydney. We’ve got to find ways to make it work,” Lockyer said.

“Everyone keeps dismissing it and saying, ‘It’s too many clubs in Sydney’, but why don’t we make it work? There’s so much history there and it would be a shame to lose some of that.

“The clubs that are the oldest have got quite a wide-ranging fan base. You’ve got people that have been following them since they were young and have followed them for 60-70 years, and then the new fans. The Dragons, the Rabbitohs, all those clubs, there’s always plenty of fans coming to Brisbane games to watch them play.

“I’m just an advocate that the history of clubs is where they are now. If you can’t preserve that, it’s a shame. We lost Souths there for a while and they came back, but the North Sydney Bears, there’s all that history there … unfortunately they can’t get a gig.

“I’m saying a new franchise, on the basis that we’re trying to look after the tradition and history of the clubs down in Sydney.”

JUST ONE NEW TEAM FOR NOW

Adding just one team would not add another match per round for broadcasters and would mean that at least one team every week has a bye; for those reasons, NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said potential expansion of the competition would likely be by two teams, to a total of 18.

Yet Lockyer believes that beyond those reasons, it’s not ideal for the NRL. A thinning-out of player talent is one concern, while Lockyer says it would also impact a new club’s chances of success, given the NRL would have a split focus.

“Eighteen’s not the answer. That sort of dilutes the product,” he said.

“I know that gets you more money from a broadcast deal, but I don’t think that’s what the priority should be. If we’re talking about growing the game, I’m happy to grow the game by one team, but trying to preserve the Sydney teams.

“Not [18 teams] straight away. If we’re starting up a new franchise in Brisbane or Perth, then it’s one club that you can really get behind. The NRL can do what they have to do to get them up and established; there can be a real focus on the one club that comes in. I think when you bring two in at once, maybe it dilutes the impact of that new club. Small steps.”

A big part of the appeal for broadcasters is the opportunity to show two matches per week that appeal to the rugby league-mad Brisbane market; hence the reason why Brisbane looks vastly more likely than Perth to host any new NRL team.

BRISBANE PROPER, NOT OUTER AREAS

The idea of basing a second Brisbane team in outer reaches such as Redcliffe or Ipswich – home to powerful QRL clubs - has been floated. It needs to be based in Brisbane proper, Lockyer says.

“I just wonder if there’s enough commercial dollars, sponsorship dollars, in those Ipswich and Redcliffe areas to get the most money through the door,” Lockyer said.

“They’ve got to play out of Suncorp. That doesn’t mean Ipswich or Redcliffe couldn’t play out of Suncorp, but I think the sponsorship dollars are in Brisbane itself.

“It [expansion] has been on the agenda for a while and I’ve got confidence the NRL are going to do a lot of due diligence on all options. I’ve got a lot of faith they’ll make the right decision.”

Another team in Brisbane proper would give the Broncos a new rival right on their doorstep; a competitor for corporate dollars and junior talent. Brisbane has already seen its gigantic junior nursery divvied up by the North Queensland, Gold Coast and Melbourne clubs.

“There’s no doubt it would have an impact on the Broncos’ business, from a commercial perspective and from a recruitment/development perspective,” Lockyer said.

“It is what it is. At the end of the day, the decision will be the NRL’s; it’s got nothing to do with the Broncs.

“For a long time now anyway, it doesn’t have to be the Queensland clubs or the Storm [competing for juniors]. Everyone’s out there looking across the country for talent. It’s a competitive space and you do what you can.”

The Broncos still count Redcliffe, Ipswich, Northern Suburbs, Souths Logan and Wynnum Manly as senior affiliates; five affiliate clubs is the most in the NRL, ahead of the Cowboys with three. No Sydney club has more than one.

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