With the NRL giving the green light for a second Brisbane NRL team, Shannon Ross Meyer (The Gurgler) has written a guest Editorial about the pros and cons of the Brisbane Bombers/Jets, Brisbane Firehawks, and Redcliffe Dolphins.
With the NRL talking up a second Brisbane side, a few areas/groups putting their hand up to be that Brisbane rugby league entity, and the Broncos having never looked worse or more arrogant on and off the field, we feel it is the right time to debate the merits of a second Brisbane NRL team.
First we’ll debate whether having a second Brisbane NRL team makes sense at all.
Then we will look through the current candidates and look for the positives and the negatives.
It’s all in the latest edition of the Grape Debate.
SHOULD THERE BE A SECOND BRISBANE NRL TEAM AT ALL?
There could be arguments about diluting the talent pool with a 17th team in the NRL, but how many great second-tier players never get a chance in the NRL. It is something especially bad in Queensland, as 13 teams have to vie for the attentions of just four NRL sides. At least most NSW Cup sides have just the one NRL side to filter to. Imagine a second Brisbane rugby league team to give the Cody Walkers of this world a chance years before they actually make it, and the ones we’ll never hear of, because they don’t get a chance.
A second Brisbane team could be a real boost to Queensland’s Intrust Super Cup; with more potential NRL pathways they could get more talent than they already do now.
A cynic of Australian sports broadcasting could say at least there would be some more variety for the NRL viewing public on Thursdays and Fridays.
Brisbane rugby league needs freshen up. The Broncos’ current form and attitude means Brisbane rugby league fans will get a choice.
The NRL itself needs a freshen up with a new team, and a move ever so slightly from the Sydney bias.
It would break up the Broncos’ monopoly of Brisbane rugby league, and perhaps provide Brisbane and Queensland businesses with an opportunity to support an NRL side they wouldn’t currently get with the Broncos.
Peter V’Landys wants it, which is a good chance of it happening, given his follow through since taking charge. He hasn’t got much wrong lately.
Unless News Ltd get on board (not forgetting that they own a stake in the Broncos), then the team will be unloved by the former Newspaper of the Year, and the only rag on offer in the Sunshine State. Coverage has been reasonably positive thus far, but if it got closer to reality then – given the newspaper’s interest – you could imagine they won’t be too helpful to any new side that conflicts with their ownership.
Is there anyone who is really crying out for a new Brisbane team to support? Don’t most Brisbane rugby league fans already have a team, and will the second Brisbane NRL team get more than a curious yet casual fan?
The Broncos are going badly enough right now, so how could a second Brisbane NRL side go any better?
WHO SHOULD BE THE SECOND BRISBANE NRL TEAM
So we have more positives than negatives for a second Brisbane NRL team, but who should it be? We are of the firm belief that it shouldn’t be just another Brisbane team. That didn’t work with the Crushers, and nothing we have since has changed our mind.
The big questions are who are they aiming at to support them, what interest could they bring, and would they actually be able to do it financially?
We’ll answer those questions and more.
The Brisbane Bombers put their hand up a long time ago to fill a potential second Brisbane NRL team slot, and as enthusiastic as their bid is, it amounts for us as a bit ‘meh’.
‘Bombers’ is hardly an inspiring nickname, nor is it that original or particularly linked with Brisbane (famously associated with the Essendon Australian Rules club). Sure there are some great plane stories from around Queensland, but for Brisbane specifically? We know nicknames are tough with so many taken, but ‘Bombers’ does nothing for us. Although, it would offer plenty of puns for the newspaper headline writers. If they get a chance with News Ltd.
Our favourite potential headlines would be “Bombers Crash and Burn”, “Bombs Away” when they win their first game, and something to do with “Secret Mission”, which of course would have players dressed in old-timey leather helmet and goggles.
But who are the Bombers aiming at? It’s just another team with Brisbane, and most fans already have a team, or are loyal to the Broncos. The best they could get is casual Brisbane interest in our opinion, or someone who just really hates the Broncos enough, unless they produced a side better than the Broncos, which, given the current situation in the 2021 NRL season (and 2020) may not be that hard.
Look to the AFL, at least when they inserted a new team into Sydney, Perth and Adelaide it was to a slightly different location and/or history, not just another Sydney, Perth or Adelaide team. Sydney and Perth went for geographic difference with Western Sydney and Fremantle, and Adelaide went for a traditionally well-supported grassroots club in Port Adelaide, which also has some geographic difference. The Brisbane Bombers is just another Brisbane team.
Even the Bombers colours are ‘meh’: dark blue and orange-ish. Give the Titans some credit as the most recent NRL additions, at least their colours are interesting.
Despite being the most visible contender for quite a while, It’s a hard sell for the Bombers for us, but one thing they do have is some good people behind it. Their Bid Consortium team is quite impressive: Nicholas Livermore – who is the son of Ross Livermore – has rugby league administration pedigree and a decent business background, and former players Scott Sattler and Billy Moore are sound choices as the names you know. The rest of the team look quite competent and professional, which is not usually the norm in rugby league.
There’s a lot of good corporate speak and their business plans make sense. Even their logo looks professional. But it does all sound like any other corporate environment you’d find in Australia, and that’s our problem with this potential second Brisbane NRL team. It feels too corporate: what do the fans have to attach themselves to? Where are they going to come from? Even the colours feel corporate. The talk of their support covers a lot of the South East region, but is quite vague. Even the derby has been pointed out as a benefit to the Broncos.
It makes some sense financially, but then if they can’t attract 10,000 fans to each home game, given the hire fee of Suncorp Stadium, and the spiral if they can’t get good sponsors, then no matter how professional it is it could end up like another Crushers episode. Other clubs already have fan bases and a specific region to attach themselves to. Other potential teams may not have a better Brisbane-wide reach, but they will certainly grab a lot more of localised markets, and who is to say that other SEQ residents won’t casually follow a team from another area of Brisbane anyway?
Perhaps the Bombers team had read all of the above before it was published and perhaps realised that they needed something else. So the recent merger with the Ipswich Jets gives them something they were missing, and offers the Ipswich bid plenty more than they could have done by themselves.
Like Redcliffe, Ipswich is not quite Brisbane, and would therefore give the people in that area a genuine reason to get behind a second team, and are people that were going to get behind the Bombers not going to now they are aligned with Ipswich? There’s also a big catchment to the west if they scoop up fans from Toowoomba, Warwick and further along the Warrego and Cunnigham highways. Then you have your genuine geographic difference to the Broncos, which should be one of the points of this whole process.
Ipswich have a great rugby league tradition in SEQ – and some of it precedes Allan Langer and the Walters clan. Back last century there was an annual competition between Brisbane, Ipswich and Toowoomba – the Bulimba Cup – and the local Ipswich competition is still reasonably strong.
One big hope for the new Ipswich alignment is that this may end up giving the Walker brothers (Ben and Shane) the NRL coaching gig they deserve. At least one shot anyway. And this could be a masterstroke even if wins aren’t forthcoming.
The Ipswich Jets took out the Intrust Super Cup and State Championship in 2015 playing the most unique brand of rugby league seen in modern times. Their cavalier ball play and different defensive strategies gave them an entertaining edge, and very often a competitive edge. And they rarely waivered. Even in the State Championship with a few minutes to go and a slender lead, they still did a short drop out with all the risk you associated with the Walker brothers.
There will be hesitation from potential fans and onlookers for the second Brisbane side, but imagine the Walker brothers at the helm entertaining the socks off rugby league in their first season? They would win new fans straight away.
And Ipswich people are real battlers, so they would be as loyal as any other NRL fans so could certainly absorb a few building seasons if they go down the Crushers level of performance early. Could a generic Brisbane Bombers (pre-Ipswich) or Firehawks rely on such loyalty if they are terrible to begin with? Maybe, but not like Ipswich fans.
The Brisbane Firehawks are the latest to bring the rock to this party, and are basically a bid backed by the successful Easts Tigers and Easts Leagues Club, but are planning to run under a new name and slightly altered colours.
Why the Firehawk? Well we can let this informative article from Fox Sports explain that further, but essentially the Easts Tigers had bugger all chance of being Tigers in the NRL due to the Wests Tigers. Hence, the slightly different colours too.
One positive for the Firehawks to come out of the name change would be a healthy rivalry with the Sydney-based Tiger team based on the cat nickname, and an East-West rivalry thrown in.
But, like the Bombers, the issue is where they will gather their support. At a minimum they will have the fans of the well-supported Easts Tigers as a guaranteed base, which puts them one step ahead of the Bombers. But flying under the name of Brisbane again there is the issue of whether they can be more than the Crushers. You could maybe bring in Wynnum Manly, since the firehawk is close-ish to a seagull, and make the team an Eastern Suburbs-Bayside team. Although that would mean you would have to put aside one of the Intrust Super Cup’s bigger rivalries. And add some green and red. Wynnum also have a decent-sized leagues club too.
Having experience in the day-to-day running of one of the Brisbane competition’s better-run football clubs will help, but the Tigers are currently helped by a link up with the Storm, which you would think would have to end if they made the NRL. Losing the Storm players would be a blow, and then sorting out the catchment of Brisbane talent with the Broncos would be interesting at best.
Last of all is the Redcliffe Dolphins, and they certainly aren’t the least.
Redcliffe would currently have to be the favourites, as they offer just about everything the next SEQ team needs.
As discussed previously, a different geographic identity is key to this bidding process. Sadly, the Dolphins might become Brisbane Dolphins, but that’s a mistake. Are people from SEQ not going to support the Dolphins because they are Redcliffe and not Brisbane? In this writer’s opinion it must stay as Redcliffe.
And Redcliffe, being on the northern edge and in a different local government to Brisbane, have a wide net they can cast. The Moreton Bay Region (covering places like Redcliffe, Kallangur, North Lakes and Caboolture) is fast approaching 500,000 people.
And it wouldn’t be a stretch with clever marketing and large elbows to capture the Sunshine Coast while they’re at it. Throw in that 400,000 or so and you are approaching a catchment of nearly 12 million. Could the inner city Firehawks boast that?
Talking of identity, the Dolphin is also a major plus. It is established and loved already. And it was well known enough in rugby league circles for the prospective Gold Coast bid to be told ‘hands off’ back when the Titans were born. Redcliffe knew the brand would hold, and now it is NRL-ready. And with no disrespect to the Firehawks bid, you aren’t going to have explain a Dolphin to anyone.
And it may sound petty, but the colours is also an advantage. No corporate colours of the Bombers, or the mix of colour the Firehawks will bring; it is a distinctive red that the Dolphins should wear in the NRL. And a colour they will have to themselves mostly and share occasionally with the Dragons in Illawarra mode.
Redcliffe will also take their team’s history and winning culture into the NRL unlike any of the other start ups. The Dolphins are consistently in the mix for finals, and have made two of the last four grand finals, winning one. The danger with the other new clubs is the potential of a Crushers fade if they start off slowly. People and players already know the Redcliffe brand, their winning culture, and the money behind the bid, so they are in prime position to attract better players.
On the subject of money and facilities, although the Dolphins will be forced to play out of Suncorp Stadium, their own home at Dolphin Stadium (nee Oval) is good enough for the Roar in the A-League, and will be plenty good enough for the smaller clashes in the NRL. Let’s hope the bosses see sense and let them play some games at home.
Talking of finance, the Redcliffe bid will likely be more financial straight away than some NRL teams, so the NRL could hand the keys over to the Dolphins and walk away knowing it will be a club to come and kick the tyres of occasionally. The big leagues club providing the upfront resources and future backing to give the bid financial confidence. The Firehawks with Easts League club could also claim this, as they were in the top 10 for poker machine turnover in 2017-18, while Redcliffe were only top 20.
But leaving Queen of the Nile and Lightning Links aside, Redcliffe also have a wide footprint in other areas, like a retail precinct on the old practice field, and a swimming club, as part of their portfolio. They are ready and raring to go financially.
Redcliffe’s bid at this stage simply ticks more boxes than any other bid for the second SEQ NRL side, and let’s hope we see those red and white colours flying in 2023.