The shock move that could shake up NRL expansion race and ambush $100m frontrunner

Brent Read has called on the Brisbane Jets to join forces with the Brisbane Firehawks in a bid to beat the Redcliffe Dolphins to the NRL’s 17th team license as the expansion battle heats up.

NRL expansion plans are back on the table after temporarily being benched while the governing body focused all its time and energy on keeping the competition alive amid Sydney’s Covid outbreak.

Rugby League Commission chair Peter V’landys confirmed to News Corp earlier this week that formal meetings with the three hopeful teams will be held over the next fortnight.

Those three teams that are vying for a place in the competition are the Brisbane Firehawks, Redcliffe Dolphins and Brisbane Jets.

It hasn’t been decided just yet though whether the winning bid will enter the competition in 2023 — as first planned — or in 2024.

However, regardless, the winning team could be announced as early as the grand final weekend in October, News Corp reports.

A big factor that will be taken into account is each team’s financial stability with V’landys declaring there will be no assistance.

“There will be no handouts or extra subsidies... A second Brisbane team will have to show to us that they can stand on their own two feet,” V’landys said in May.

So with an announcement potentially just two months away, who could be the 17th NRL team and what do they offer?

Paul Kent believes the decision will come down to financial viability and the $100 million in assets behind the Dolphins’ bid could be too hard for the NRL to ignore.

“If you are looking at dollars and cents would a franchise like the Dolphins who already have a $50 million annual turnover and a very strong footprint would that be a more viable option?” Yvonne Sampson asked on NRL 360.

“100 per cent,” Paul Kent replied.

“They have shown for a club working out of the Brisbane rugby league to have $100 million in assets sitting there is just brilliant.

“That is just superb management of their football club. There wouldn’t be an NRL club that has $100 million sitting around.

“It is enormously strong so that puts them right in the frame.

“Respectfully I don’t think the Jets have got much.”

The Australian’s Brent Read agreed and called on the Jets to join forces with the Brisbane Firehawks’ bid in order to give the Dolphins a run for their money.

“No they were scrapping around to get cash the other day,” Read said of the Jets.

“The Firehawks have got plenty of money to be fair. Brisbane-Easts have a pretty affluent League’s Club and they have a bit of money in the bank as well.

“I think it is a straight shootout between those two (Dolphins and Firehawks) right now.

“If Ipswhich are smart they will jump on that Brisbane-Easts bid because Brisbane (Firehawks) have put the olive branch out to them and said we will give you a seat on the board and you will be our feeder club.

“At the moment they are digging their heels in saying we want to go alone, but they are no chance.

“They are running a distant third right now. So if they are smart they will jump on the Brisbane-Easts bid and that strengthens the Brisbane-Easts bid.”

Queensland legends Wally Lewis and Sam Thaiday believe the winning expansion bid should chase Harry Grant and Kalyn Ponga as their marquee signings.

“Harry Grant, he’s a wonderful player,” Lewis told Wide World of Sports’ QLDER.

“I watched this kid play for seven minutes and I remember in his first grade debut, I said, ‘That kid will play for Queensland, probably play for Australia’. He had time, he had space, his decision-making process was first class.”

“You can sign Harry Grant but you can sign Kalyn Ponga as well,” Thaiday said.

“You talk about a marquee player and you want to attract people to your club, he’s one of those kids that is absolutely growing in confidence year by year. He has a cult following already. You’re going to get that kid market, you’re going to be getting kids and families through the gate to watch a player like Kalyn Ponga.

“I think he’s the guy that you chase and you throw the kitchen sink at him. If it’s in the Moreton Bay region, give him Moreton Island! He can have it, he can do whatever he wants there!”

Read on for the three remaining expansion bids in the race to be the NRL’s 17th team.


Story first published on Fox Sports