New twist in NRL expansion talks confirmed

3 weeks ago 12
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ARL commission chairman Peter V'landys says the NRL's new franchise will need to show it can attract new streams of sponsorship and bring new fans through the turnstiles following news that two of the hopeful NRL expansion bids were set to merge.

The Brisbane Jets and Brisbane Firehawks are in negotiations to join forces in a bid to eliminate the strong Redcliffe bid.

The Redcliffe Dolphins were founded in 1947 and the club has a profound presence in Queensland Rugby League, with an asset base reportedly worth around $100 million.

Redcliffe are viewed as the front-runners to be named the NRL's 17th team, although the merger between the Jets and Firehawks would see their joint bid increase to a value of an estimated $35 million.

The NRL held talks this week with prospective bidders and are expected to green-light a new team for the start of the 2023 or 2024 season.

Peter V'landys confirmed the NRL has spoken to prospective bidders. (Getty)

Speaking to 2GB's Ben Fordham, V'landys confirmed that merger talks are underway.

"I was aware of it first thing this morning that it might happen," he said. "We'll wait and see if it does happen.

"These merger talks sometimes do fall over. But it will certainly make that bid a lot stronger than what it currently is.

"It's a smart thing to do – combining to make a more powerful bid – they have much more money behind them.

"One of the assets to the Redcliffe offer is the cash they can put into the game and the available assets they have and the membership of a new audience."

V'landys declared that the competition's new team would have to bring new fans and sponsors to the game, rather than pilfering from the established sides.

"If we bring in a 17th team it's got to bring in new audience and take a casual fan and turn them onto a rusted-on rugby league fan," he said.

Redcliffe Dolphins are a known brand in Queensland. (Getty)

"There's no good taking fans from the Broncos or Titans or Dragons, they have got to be new fans, with new tribalism and they've got to reinvigorate Brisbane rugby league and that's what we are looking at."

No matter who wins the bid to be the NRL's newest team, the success of the franchise will rely heavily on recruitment on and off the field. Speaking on Wide World of Sports' Six Tackles with Gus podcast, Canterbury general manager Phil Gould reiterated the importance of having a strong figure with a deep sense for the local community as the face of the club.

All bids have reportedly had talks with legendary coach Wayne Bennett about his plans for the future, with the mentor returning to Brisbane after his stint at the Rabbitohs finishes at the end of this season. Gould said Bennett meets the criteria and naming him as coach or football director would be a "no-brainer" in terms of luring talent and attracting sponsors, but warned the processes put in place on the ground floor will impact the club for years to come.

Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett. (Nine)

"Whoever comes in will need to set It up for the long term but attract talent in the short-term," Gould said.

"They would need to be very careful how they manage that process because that first salary cap that they put out is going to affect them for a few seasons.

"It's going to be hard to entice players for one year. Particularly if you're asking them to relocate and move home so you can imagine that most of them are going to be extended contracts.

"How to keep yourself competitive – how much is that going to cost? And what does it do to the future years and how do you replenish that over time?"

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