The Dolphins have garnered the same fanfare to start the NRL season as their namesake at Sea World on the Gold Coast and there’s no doubt it whets the appetite to expand the competition further, but how many more teams would you like in rugby league?
The ARL Commission rolled the dice by handing the Dolphins the 17th licence and it raised questions like; is there enough talent to field another team in the NRL? Will it dilute the product and will they just be making up the numbers?
I wasn’t the only one who thought the Dolphins would struggle to knock over some of the competition heavyweights in their first year, but they’ve surprised everyone with their success to start their inaugural season. In fact they’ve become my second team.
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We’ve heard for months about the players they’ve missed out on, yet they still boast a playing roster that’s full of talent including the likes of Felise Kaufusi – who claimed the Artie Legacy Medal named in honour of the late Arthur Beetson in round one – and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow who’s already proving the buy of the season.
ARLC chairman Peter V’Landys admitted he was “over the moon” when the Dolphins kicked off their campaign with an impressive victory over the Roosters in their season opener, but he agreed on 2GB’s Continuous Call Team “it’s only early… there are 25 rounds to go and I would like to celebrate at the end of the year”.
V’Landys declared the Dolphins are already ticking the boxes of success by “bringing a new audience, which was the whole idea of the expansion… to bring new people into the game”.
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“I was reading an article from the paper up at Redcliffe where they said that three people went to the game that had never been to rugby league before, but because it was the Dolphins, they went.”
The ARLC chairman also hinted at further expansion with talk of an 18th team.
“The federal government are very keen for us to look at the Papua New Guinea-Pasifika solution, where there would be a Papua New Guinea team with all the Pacific Nations…that would happen in 2025 if it was to occur” V’Landys told the Continuous Call Team.
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Is the game ready for 18 teams in 2025?
Well, forget about 18, what about 20?
News Corp is also reporting the Commission has plans for a 20-team competition which could happen before the 2032 Olympics in Brisbane.
Roosters supremo Nick Politis is pushing the $400 million masterplan for the NRL to take over the AFL as Australia’s No.1 football code.
It’s an ambitious plan being backed by V’Landys and it would see three new expansion clubs, estimated to be worth $20 million in annual funding support for the next 20 years.
The report suggests the Pasifika club will be based full-time in Cairns and play a number of home games in Samoa, Tonga and Papua New Guinea; North Sydney chiefs are open to merger talks with the Pasifika consortium to bring the Bears back to the top flight for the first time since 1999; and the Australian government will provide tens of millions of dollars in financial support to help bankroll a Pasifika team.
Are you onboard, or is this fraught with danger?
The Commission should be applauded for exploring ways in which to expand and grow the game, however in my opinion the focus needs to be on junior rugby league participation because without parents enrolling their kids in football, what’s the point of further expansion?
I spoke to several people during the off-season who are all involved in the junior leagues across Sydney and in the bush; their message was the same, “it’s dire” and we need help from the game’s administrators to recruit more kids to rugby league.
We’ve got local competitions merging with other districts and some teams are being forced to fold because there aren’t enough players in the regional and rural areas.
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What’s the ARL Commission, NSWRL and QRL doing to tackle the threat of the AFL through its Auskick program which has been rolled out through schools and at a junior level?
The AFL has invested millions of dollars in creating a nursery of youngsters who will grow up to become the next Lance “Buddy” Franklin while rugby league has sat on its hands and let them get the jump on us. What’s the NRL development officers doing to entice more families to rugby league or have we missed the boat because the AFL has been doing it for years?
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I still remember my nephew coming home a few years ago raving about meeting the GWS Giants who kicked the footy with him in the playground, they gave the 12-year-old kids a show bag and tickets to the Sydney Showground to watch them play.
Who do you think Isaac follows now? Yep – the GWS Giants.
The other challenge for the NRL and the federal government is explaining to the Australia people why tens of millions of dollars should be invested to bankroll these extra football teams, especially at a time when we’re talking about cost of living pressures and our national debt totalling hundreds of billions of dollars.
The Dolphins have got everyone excited, but let’s not lose focus on the critical issues facing the game like participation numbers at a junior level because they’re our future.
If the ARL Commission wants three more teams by 2032, that’s another 90 players, so where are they going to come from?
Let me know your thoughts by sending through an email to the WWOS Radio show on 2GB by clicking here.
Wide World of Sports Radio is heard from 6pm AEDT on 2GB 873am with Mark Levy and co-hosts Shane Flanagan (Monday), Paul Gallen (Tuesday) and Brad Fittler (Wednesday).
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