NRL debate erupts as Brisbane Tigers launch $25 million expansion bid

The NRL could see the addition of an 18th team as early as 2026, if the Brisbane Tigers get their way.

The Brisbane Tigers logo is seen left, and Peter V'landys on the right.
The Brisbane Tigers have launched a compelling bid to become the 18th NRL franchise, but Peter V'landys wants to give the Dolphins more time to settle into the competition first. Pictures: Brisbane Tigers/Getty Images

The Brisbane Tigers have launched their bid to become the 18th team to join the NRL, declaring they have the finances and resources to compete in the Queensland rugby league market. The club, formerly known as Easts before they rebranded in 2020, has the backing of the wealthy Easts Leagues Club and plans on a $10 million upgrade of their Langlands Park base as part of their potential bid.

The club had hoped to join the league as the NRL's 17th team, but was pipped by the successful Dolphins bid which joined the league this season. The addition of an 18th team, and with it a massive increase in the amount of broadcast money coming in for the NRL, has been viewed as inevitable by ARLC chairman Peter V'landys.

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There is a desire to let the Dolphins complete their second season in the NRL before assessing the viability of adding an 18th team, however Brisbane Tigers' Shane Richardson is keen to get the ball rolling. A second New Zealand-based team, the Brisbane Jets, a Perth presence and the return of the North Sydney Bears are other potential options, as well as an Australian government-backed Pasifika franchise based in Cairns.

Richardson said there was no doubt Brisbane was the best location for further expansion in the NRL, saying other clubs would be unhappy about a new club based in Cairns - suggesting it would detract from the North Queensland Cowboys.

“Queensland can have a fifth team, no question, but it can’t be in Cairns,” Richardson said. “There is not the commercial backing, there’s not the set up and I’m sure the Cowboys wouldn’t enjoy another NRL team being in Cairns giving all the great work they do in that Townsville region.

“Cairns is not a viable option from a commercial point of view. If you were going to put an 18th team anywhere, it has to be based in Brisbane.”

Bid chairman for Tigers, Shane Edwards, was confident the early success of the Dolphins, who sit sixth on the NRL ladder after 11 rounds, could be replicated. He also said there was compelling evidence as to the future viability of another Brisbane-based club.

Fans were largely in favour of further NRL expansion, but many weren't convinced Brisbane was the right location so soon after the Dolphins joined. Many suggested Perth or New Zealand as better alternatives.

Edwards also confirmed the club would be open to a name change. The Tigers name is already in use in the NRL with the Wests Tigers.

“With the strong attendance and audience figures we are seeing the Dolphins achieve in their debut year, we believe the Brisbane Tigers can provide a similar stimulus in the south-west corridor that takes in the Logan and Ipswich regions,” Edwards said. “If successful in becoming the 18th NRL team, our goal is to be the go-to club for sports fans on Brisbane’s south side and western corridor and the millions of casual fans between the ages of 18 to 34 who do not currently support the Broncos, Dolphins or Titans.”

Brisbane Tigers bullish about NRL expansion chances

Edwards said nine game-free weekends at Suncorp Stadium in 27 rounds this season was evidence that the venue could support another team. And he claims the bid's balance sheet, assets and financial forecast rivals that of the Broncos and Dolphins.

"We're very confident with our backing and our history," he said. "This Brisbane Tigers group have always had a desire for the southside of Brisbane to be represented in a national competition. This club is an NRL club to be."

Andrew Abdo and Peter V'Landys.
The NRL is keen to further expand the league, but wants to let the Dolphins finish their second season before fully committing. (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Broncos coach Kevin Walters tried to laugh off the latest Queensland expansion effort before agreeing the long-standing club's bid had merit. "How many do they want? I'm still getting over Redcliffe coming in," he said.

"In fairness to the Tigers they've been a strong club for a long time, a lot of history and heritage at the Tigers. And I'm sure we could accommodate 10 teams here (in Queensland).

"People just love their footy so much. They've proved that with the Dolphins coming in. (If) another team comes in, bring it on, let's go."

With AAP

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