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Western Australia Emerges as Leading Contender for NRL Expansion Team


Western Australia is now the leading candidate to secure the NRL’s 18th licence, with a Perth team potentially joining the national competition by 2027 or 2028, ahead of Papua New Guinea.

Previously, a Papua New Guinea team was considered the top choice for expansion, supported by a $600 million Federal Government funding promise. However, Perth’s bid is now seen as more advanced and compelling.

The ARL Commission will finalize their expansion plans in their meeting next Wednesday before State of Origin II in Melbourne, where they are expected to call for expressions of interest for an 18th and 19th licence.

A WA consortium, led by Cash Converters executive chairman Peter Cumins, is firmly committed to a standalone bid. Cumins is set to meet with potential partners North Sydney Bears and Newtown Jets in Sydney next week to discuss potential collaboration before submitting an official bid.

The Bears, with board member and State of Origin legend Billy Moore, have been vocal about a WA union, promising a “marriage not a takeover.” The Jets’ bid, backed by Sydney marketing guru John Singleton, and interest from Hungry Jack’s founder Jack Cowan, adds to the potential for a WA team.

Cumins aims to understand the Bears’ and Jets’ business plans, which include talent pathways, management of playing lists, supporter bases, and merchandise sales.

The WA consortium has collaborated closely with a State Government working party backed by Premier Roger Cook, chaired by MP Peter Tinley, and Freshwater Strategy, the firm that assisted the Dolphins in securing the NRL’s 17th licence.

The Perth bid has the support of broadcasters due to the favourable time zone. The current broadcast deal runs until the end of 2027.

Christchurch is also expected to launch a strong bid for the 20th licence.

Estimates suggest it will cost around $30 million to establish a WA team, covering licence fees, players, coaching, and support staff.

Freshwater Strategy director Leo Shanahan noted that, unlike the PNG case, a WA bid is self-funding.

“The WA Government is hugely supportive and not in the business of propping up teams but it is our understanding it will help in terms of upgrades around HBF Park and investment in pathways programmes for rugby league,” Shanahan said. “This is in conjunction with serious private investment around a Perth bid both from West Coast investors and those in the east. You have to go to the NRL with a very tight and economically viable proposal … in Perth you have all that. You have financial backing, you have serious government backing and you have a support base.”

Moore told The West Australian that the Bears would play one or two home games at North Sydney Oval but would be a WA team.

“The Bears will relocate to Perth forever. We will stay and play in Perth,” Moore said. “The North Sydney Bears have 116 years of history. That won’t go away. But what we have here is two cities, one future. Our history, our logo, our brand is very dear to us, it’s our tattoo. We realize for us to be reborn, it can’t be in the North Sydney area and we are more than happy to move across the Nullarbor to Western Australia. It’s about the West Australian people realizing this is going to be their team as well. It’s a marriage, a partnership, where our history is brought into the West. Going forward, it’s a partnership we want the West Australian people to be proud of, what we’ve got, where we are going and what we are going to achieve together.”

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