Western Corridor ‘best place for next NRL team’
WITH the Western Corridor's NRL hopes reinvigorated, bid chief Steve Johnson will seek a crucial meeting this week.
The Ipswich Jets chaiman was encouraged to hear ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys pressing ahead with NRL expansion plans, as soon as 2022.
V'landys said a 17th team was needed, with south east Queensland a preferred location.
"Ensuring the viability of the 16 clubs, and that includes the Broncos and Titans, is my priority,'' V'landys said. "But in my eyes, expansion is on the agenda and I still think Brisbane needs a second team to dominate Queensland.
"The coronavirus pandemic hasn't ruined the expansion plans at all.
"I am very much attracted to another team in Queensland. There is a need for it."
The Western Corridor bid launched a decade ago covers Ipswich, Logan, Toowoomba and western country areas, providing what Johnson calls a demographically superior region to host another team in the national competition.
While talk of expansion has gained momentum and stalled over the years, Johnson has kept faith the Western Corridor bid best suits future growth needs.
"I was going to talk to him (V'landys) about expansion before COVID hit and then of course he's got more important things to worry about in the meantime,'' Johnson said.
"So I'll reach out over the week and see where his thoughts are at.
"We believe that with our numbers, the only place really to expand is in the Western Corridor.
"So we'll see where he (V'landys) is at and he wants to do, what his time frame is.
"We'll work from there.''
Johnson said V'landys had listened to people since joining the Commission and "come up with some really good strategies''.
"And one of those needs to be the rationalisation of rugby league and another team in Queensland for the good of the game . . . to raise awareness and even for the wellbeing of the players. They don't have to relocate.''
While supporting the Broncos to remain strong, Johnson continued to challenge suggestions syndicate rivals like the Brisbane Bombers were better placed to field a 17th NRL team.
"By 2026, we're going to have 30 per cent of all rugby league players in Queensland,'' Johnson said.
That is based on bid projections that the Western Corridor would have more than 19,000 players in six years, compared to 13,000 registered players in Brisbane and just 3400 in Redcliffe, another syndicate.
"We have always had the best numbers in rugby league and they have only gotten better with the passing of time and the delay in expansion,'' Johnson said in an earlier story.
"There's more growth in the Western Corridor than there are players currently in Redcliffe.
"So by the time you add in Toowoomba - which has got good growth - and Logan, we've got more players coming to our area than Redcliffe currently have.
"We're assured of a fan base.
"History shows that we'll keep producing the game's best players so there's no reason why it (the next NRL team) shouldn't be in our area.''
He said the Western Corridor goal was to succeed long term around community and people.
Johnson conceded a decision on a future NRL team needed to be made sooner rather than later to assure sustainability.
"It's not hard to put a football side on the field. That's easy to do,'' Johnson said.
"You can put a set of jerseys on 17 blokes and play tomorrow but that doesn't make you a successful club.
"You need that time to recruit the right people, especially with players. It's really hard to recruit players in 18 months.''
As for a potential Western Corridor coach, Johnson said Walker brothers Shane and Ben, along with Terry Matterson, were ideal candidates.
"It's recruiting your players to start with and players that are going to be good people,'' Johnson said.
"And that's always been the foundations of what we've done at the Jets and what we intend to do with an NRL side.''