Rugby league has begun reinforcing its foundations in Queensland ahead of an anticipated AFL invasion, unveiling a new headquarters and keeping the door ajar for expansion and a possible NRL grand final in Brisbane.
Australian Rugby League Commission chairman John Grant said the sport was “not taking advantage” of its northern dominance, suggesting the next team introduced to the NRL was likely to come from southeast Queensland.
Asked if a second Brisbane side was at the head of the queue for potential expansion candidates, Grant said: “I think southeast Queensland.”
“We have flagged the fact when you look at where the players are placed and where the fans are placed, there is a marketplace in Queensland, potentially not being taken advantage of.
“Queensland has multiple centres of high density and we have to make sure our NRL and Queensland Cup teams are appealing to those communities.
“We have provisions (in the free-to-air broadcast agreement) for a 17th team in Brisbane.”
Grant’s comments will be music to the ears of the several consortia vying to bring another team to the southeast corner and challenge the dominance of the Broncos.
But wait, there’s more.
Rugby league’s second biggest showpiece event, the NRL grand final, could also be on its way to Brisbane.
While the NRL is contractually bound to keep the season decider in Sydney until 2019, Grant said it will shift around after that.
“We use the State of Origin on a three-year cycle to launch rugby league and confirm league’s position elsewhere in the Australian community,” he said.
“We will do the same with grand finals and other big events.
“We have to keep our options open but there are commitments being made.”
Grant said rugby league wasn’t being rushed into action by the AFL, which was armed with a huge new war chest of TV money, and would aggressively target the non-traditional states of Queensland and NSW in years to come.
The AFL this week announced the country’s first “diversity academy” would be established in western Brisbane.
“I am sure the AFL didn’t sit down last year and think about western Brisbane; I am sure it has been on their horizon for several years,” Grant said.
“There is as much a sense of urgency that you can have, but things take time.”
Grant was also on hand to announce a new home for rugby league in Queensland to be completed in time for the new season – directly across the road from the game’s current offices at Suncorp Stadium.
It will be known as Rugby League Central Queensland and will house all the game’s main stakeholders in the state under the one roof, along with a rugby league museum and flexible function room.