NRL expansion looks to be on hold

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Winging it
It was a simple nod of the head by Channel Nine boss David Gyngell that quickly made it clear expansion was not about to happen in the NRL any time soon.

Despite long-running and spirited campaigns by the Central Coast, Brisbane Bombers Central Queensland and two Perth franchises to be included as the 17th team, Gyngell and ARLC chairman John Grant made it clear they would not see a single dollar from the latest TV deal.

Gyngell said the value in the AFL's ninth game - as a result of the introduction of the Gold Coast and GWS to form an 18-team competition - was "disputable at the moment". And Grant added the TV rights holder was always going to have a say on expansion.

"The proof of this deal is there's not a lot of value placed on that ninth game," said Grant, as Gyngell sat nearby and nodded.

"That doesn't necessarily negate the expansion opportunities, but it certainly forces us to put much more rigour around it in terms of financial analysis and long-term sustainability. Our first commitment is to our existing clubs, and that's where it sits and what we'll work with first."

While the news coming appeared grim for any new-comers, the franchises found plenty to be positive about.

Central Coast Bears chief executive Greg Florimo said: "Given the amount of work and time and effort that expansion has had the past few years, I think it would be pre-emptive to suggest it's dead and buried. We will still charge on."

Now the scheduling and the TV deal have been sorted, Florimo says the "final piece to the puzzle" is "ensuring the grass roots are catered to, and heartlands such as the Central Coast that are key to sustainability into the future".

Central Queensland boss Denis Keeffe said his franchise would need at least until 2016 to be ready to enter the NRL.

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