A week after the AFL celebrated the code’s Gold Coast progress, NRL master coach Wayne Bennett has dismissed the Suns as a threat to rugby league in the region.
“I don’t think it is a threat down there – I don’t think the Suns are threatening anybody,” the Brisbane mentor said of the AFL expansion club.
Bennett admitted rugby league needed a Gold Coast presence and that every code had found life tough on the tourist strip.
But Bennett’s sobering appraisal of the Suns in their sixth year would be a wake-up call to the AFL.
“The Suns would probably like to be doing a lot better than they are,” Bennett said.
“No one knows how much the AFL have thrown into the Gold Coast but they have thrown a lot in there and they will have to throw a lot more yet.”
Bennett’s comments came barely seven days after AFL CEO Gillon McLachlan had arrived on the tourist strip amid much fanfare to mark the code’s 150th year in Queensland.
McLachlan did admit it was time for the Suns to end their drought and start playing finals footy in their sixth year.
But the AFL boss insisted he was happy with the Suns’ growth since the seed for a Gold Coast club was first planted in 2009.
Despite his view of the Suns, Bennett backed the NRL’s financial support of the Gold Coast Titans.
The NRL took over the Titans when they were placed into voluntary administration a year ago, recording a $3.3 million loss for 2015.
The NRL earlier this month confirmed it would actively accept offers from potential buyers and did not want to be a long-term holder of the Titans licence.
Several groups have shown interest in the Titans with the North Sydney Bears confirming they are preparing a takeover bid.
“We need to have a presence there,” Bennett said of rugby league on the Gold Coast.
“The NRL have shown they are going to hang in there and stay at it and I think that is the best thing they have done for the coast.”
But Bennett added: “The Gold Coast has been a difficult playing ground for all codes.
“It’s been tough whether it has been basketball, soccer, Aussie Rules or rugby league.”