Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett has slammed the Sydney-based NRL clubs’ “selfish” attitudes towards expansion, while Queensland Rugby League chairman Bruce Hatcher has called for a New South Wales team to be killed off and relocated to Perth.
After the stunning success of the Dolphins, who won their opening three NRL games this season, there are growing calls for the ARL Commission to consider fresh markets for an 18th licence – possibly as early as 2025.
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ARLC boss Peter V’landys is keen to explore further growth to combat ahead of the next broadcast deal in 2027, with head office open to a 20-team competition by 2030. There’s no shortage of potential suitors and several bids already have the wheels in motion, ready to throw their hat in the ring.
“We haven’t put a time on it. It could be in 2025 or it could be in 2027 when the broadcast contract comes up for renewal,” V’landys told Triple M.
“We’re going to look hard at the Dolphins situation to see what we have done right and what we have done wrong, and if there’s enough players to have that 18th team.”
Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, Hatcher proposed an 18-team league featuring a rebranded Perth team and a fifth NRL club in Queensland, with one of nine Sydney teams moving to Western Australia.
“There are too many teams in Sydney, but if you take one team out of Sydney and move it to Perth, we will have a better-balanced competition with a national footprint,” Hatcher told the News Corp publication.
“I’m not going to name which (Sydney) team should go, I will leave that to the ARL Commission.
“The AFL has relocated teams with South Melbourne and Fitzroy and while it took time, the Sydney Swans and Brisbane Lions are now forces of their competition.
“We need a truly national footprint.
“Everyone agrees with me behind the scenes, but no-one ever talks about it openly.”
Speaking to reporters in a wild press conference in Brisbane on Thursday, Bennett was asked why he believed the existing clubs didn’t want expansion.
“Because they are selfish,” Bennett responded.
“If Sydney had their way, they wouldn’t be playing anywhere else but in Sydney.
“They wouldn’t want Test matches or State of Origins.
“That’s why you have administrators outside of the clubs that have to make decisions in the best interests of what the game needs.
“But we get selfish in clubs and a bit personal.
“We all want to win the premiership, but we don’t want to play against anybody to win it.”
Bulldogs general manager Phil Gould was emphatic in his belief that the next team should once again be in southeast Queensland.
“I said for years that Brisbane needed a second team and now I think they need a third team,” Gould said on Six Tackles with Gus.
“If we’re going to put an 18th team in, that’s where it should be. They’ve got the population, they’ve got the supporter base to do it.
“There’s not another place on the planet that would be better for another NRL team than southeast Queensland, for the game and for sustainable success.”
Gould believes the talent exists to service 18 teams, but to ensure those players make it to the NRL will need buy-in from every club.
“We can get there if we do our development and pathways properly and everyone invests time and energy into it,” Gould said.
“But unfortunately we only have a few clubs that do and a lot of clubs that don’t. But we can get them all up to speed over time, it won’t happen overnight.”
Originally published as Calls for Sydney-based club to be axed as Wayne Bennett blasts ‘selfish’ rivals