The Brisbane Tigers have launched a $25 million bid set to rival a Cairns-based Pasifika franchise as the race to become the NRL’s 18th team heats up.
The Tigers are one of rugby league’s oldest clubs with a 106-year history and have this week lodged their expression of interest with the NRL.
The famous club, formerly known as Easts, rebranded in 2020 and was behind the Firehawks expansion bid which lost to the Dolphins.
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The Easts Leagues Club behind the bid boasts $25 million in cash reserves and has a net-asset base in excess of $57 million.
But a Pasifika franchise based out of Cairns, that will be heavily funded by the Australian Government, is currently considered the favourite to become the 18th NRL team.
ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys wants to see how the Dolphins first year in the NRL plays out before making any firm commitments.
He has however acknowledged an 18th team is inevitable because it will create an extra game per round which adds tens of millions of dollars to the NRL’s broadcast deals.
The Tigers unveiled plans on Wednesday for a $10 million redevelopment of their stadium and bid boss Shane Richardson said last month Brisbane was big enough to sustain another NRL team.
“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.”
The bid is open to a name change to avoid a clash with the Wests Tigers and Richardson said the talent pool exists to have them in the competition by 2026.
“The argument is there is not enough players and that’s just rubbish,” he said.
“Look at Isaiya Katoa (playmaking young gun) at the Dolphins.
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“I have no doubt more expansion would be good for the game and growing the game has to be a strategic objective.
“Redcliffe have done a great job building with one year, but I’m sure they would have appreciated a two-year runway to come into the NRL.
“I think we could have an 18th team as soon as possible, I think 2026 is achievable, and then another two teams (to expand to a 20-team competition) can be phased in over a period of time.
“David Gallop (former NRL CEO) used to have a great saying, ‘Fish where the fish are’ and it’s so true.
“You have Papua New Guinea which is the only place in the world where rugby league is the No. 1 sport.
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“You also have Queensland and there is no reason why another NRL team can’t come into Queensland.”
Tigers’ bid chairman Shane Edwards said the bid was backed by a strong balance sheet, assets and financial forecast, comparable with the Brisbane Broncos and Dolphins.
“South-east Queensland fans are craving more high-quality rugby league, with our four existing Queensland based teams still leaving our fans wanting more,” Edwards said.
“Suncorp Stadium has the capacity to support another NRL team. This year’s 27 rounds of the regular season will see nine weekends where no game is played at Lang Park.
“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.”
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