The ARL Commission is a fortnight away from formally announcing NRL expansion with a second Brisbane team to be added to the Telstra Premiership in 2023.
In a landmark moment for rugby league, News Corp can reveal the code is ready to embark on its first expansionary move in 14 years following a high-powered ARL Commission board meeting on Thursday.
It is understood ARL Commissioners heard an analysis of expansion, conducted by both League Central and external firms, showed the financial forecasting for a 17-team competition stacks up.
The final step involves ARL Commission boss Peter V’landys presenting findings and funding outcomes to the existing 16 clubs, but after 11 years of expansion heartache, Brisbane will get a second team to rival the Broncos.
V’landys has taken a cautious approach — and will not rubber-stamp expansion until he meets with the clubs over the next week — but the ARL Commission are unanimous in their backing for a fourth Queensland club.
The ARL Commission plans to make an expansion announcement after Sunday week’s NRL grand final. It will be the code’s first growth venture since the Gold Coast Titans were added to the NRL premiership in 2007.
It is believed the ARLC will first agree to expand the league, before then holding another round of talks with the Firehawks, Dolphins and Jets to land on the winning bid by late October.
That would give Brisbane’s successful second franchise time to begin an aggressive recruitment drive from November 1, when off-contract players can attract formal offers, in preparation for NRL entry in 2023.
There was talk of expansion being delayed until 2024 amid the Covid crisis, but the financials have been more positive than expected.
While the ARLC has the power to expand without the backing of the 16 clubs, V’landys is keen to have stakeholder support for one of the most significant strategic moves in the NRL’s history.
The NRL is locked in a sporting turf war with the AFL in Queensland and a second Brisbane club will give rugby league more ammunition to win a new generation of fans and participants.
Melbourne Storm chairman Matt Tripp threw his support behind the ARL Commission, saying a second Brisbane team is a “no-brainer”.
“Absolutely there is room for a second Brisbane team,” Tripp said.
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News Corp understands Redcliffe are the raging favourites to be Brisbane’s second team. It will take an eleventh-hour miracle for the Firehawks and Jets to trump the Dolphins, who boast an asset base of $100 million.
It is believed the Dolphins also have $20 million in cash reserves, easily meeting the $10m bank guarantee required by the ARL Commission.