Rugby League

WA powerbroker says talk of second Kiwi league team in NRL is ‘immoral’

League powerbrokers in Perth have called on the ARL Commission to consider granting them an 18th NRL licence, claiming it is “absurd” that Western Australia is not part of the expansion conversation.

The ARLC will make a decision in July on whether to add a Brisbane team, while also flagging during the week the prospect that another New Zealand-based club could be added at some stage in the future. Talk of expanding into New Zealand has come as a shock to officials in Perth, who believe they have a far more compelling case for a licence.

Western Reds star Mark Geyer charges into St George’s Nathan Brown at Kogarah Oval in 1995.Credit:Fairfax

“The Reds averaged 15,500 [fans] per game up until 1997 and they are talking about maybe another team out of New Zealand? It’s bizarre. I don’t know what they are thinking.

“There is so much interest in Perth, my phone is running hot.”

Puddy said there would be corporate support for a team in the west.

“There are any number of people prepared to put up $10 million,” he said. “For somebody to say today – with 3 million population and the financial position that Western Australia is in – that it’s not viable, it’s just absurd.

“There are people today who were involved in the first outing who would put their hand in their pocket to make it all happen again. There are lessons to be learnt from it, but it could happen, don’t worry about that.”

About a decade ago, Perth Glory owner Tony Sage was behind a separate push to establish an NRL franchise in Perth. The businessman had put together a consortium and even registered half-a-dozen potential names – including Perth Quokkas and Western Dolphins – in the hope of landing a licence.

He opted to shelve the idea after NRL administrators made it clear there was no appetite for a team in Western Australia, but would be prepared to revisit the concept if the game was serious about pushing into Perth.

“When they firmly make a decision and they ask for bids, I of course will put my hand up because the synergies with Perth Glory would be fantastic, especially around the stadium,” Sage said.

“The talk of anything other than taking a team to Perth is immoral.”

“Everything coming out of the NRL is that it’s not on the radar right now – they’re talking about a Brisbane team, a New Zealand team – but I got back to my original premise that it’s not a National Rugby League until Perth and Adelaide are back in.

“That’s where the AFL and even A-League has got it over the NRL; they can’t truly call themselves a national competition.”

Sage had no doubt the $30 million required to make a Perth bid viable could be raised and there would be cost savings in having one administration overseeing football, league and potentially even a basketball team in Perth.

The Western Reds were part of the ARL in 1995 and 1996, then moved to the Super League in 1997 before going under.Credit:

“With the amount of money in Perth, with the mining boom, I don’t think it would be difficult to raise that $30 million,” he said.

The advantages of a Perth team in the NRL include a favourable time zone for matches to be beamed back to the eastern states in prime time, already established stadiums in HBF Park and Optus Stadium, and a state government prepared to invest in the game.

“We have to keep the dream alive,” NRL WA general manager John Sackson said. “Now that expansion is well and truly on the agenda again, for the sake of the game we need to be in the conversation.

“When it comes to consideration for New Zealand to be an 18th location, we believe Western Australia can table a proposal equal to or far more compelling than a New Zealand franchise.

“We know we will have strong government and corporate support here.

“Someone told me the other day that something like 52 per cent of ASX listed companies are listed here. There’s a lot of potential revenue that could be invested in rugby league, but it’s untapped at the moment.”

Asked about Perth’s desire to be considered as an expansion location, ARLC chairman Peter V’landys said: “We’d consider anything that could benefit the game.”

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