WA rugby league supporters have been denied a team in an elite national competition for more than 20 years, but that could all be about to change.
With four NRL teams from the eastern states – Rabbitohs, Warriors, Bulldogs and Storm – lining up for a double header to open the season on March 10 at Optus Stadium and a State of Origin match between NSW and QLD scheduled for 2019, interest in the game here is gaining momentum.
Don’t miss your change to hear from some of the game’s most inspirational identities at a CCI-NRL event featuring Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy, Storm Captain Cameron Smith and NRL CEO Todd Greenberg as guest speakers.
Teamwork beyond the field – NRL Leaders Talk Business will also feature a panel of greats including Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly, Bulldogs CEO Andrew Hill, Melbourne Storm CEO Dave Donaghy and Warriors CEO Cameron George.
Leading the charge for rugby league to return is NRL WA General Manager John Sackson, who has helped organise the exclusive event.
Sackson says there’s an increasing appetite for rugby league in WA following the loss of the rugby union side Western Force and increasing popularity of games being held at Optus Stadium.
He says one of the biggest sources of hope is comments from the man touted as being the next commissioner of Australian rugby league, former Queensland premier Peter Beattie, who is Chairman of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Beattie recently said the NRL needed to expand or perish, which Sackson says is significant step forward.
“Expansion has been off the table in the past five years because I think the game was more focused on consolidation, on getting the existing 16 clubs in a better position, more sustainable and I think that was the right call,” he says.
“But with expansion on the cards, Perth is at the front and centre of that discussion.
“We haven’t got a national game – it’s the NRL and yet the game at the present time is restricted to the east coast and New Zealand.
“Perth has won so many fan polls as being the most favoured location for another NRL franchise.”
Sackson has been instrumental in building the profile of WA rugby league in the east and is currently in discussions to take a WA team to the NSW Cup.
The Western Reds were founded in 1992 and played two seasons in the Australian Rugby League competition from 1995 to 1996 before they defected to the rival and now defunct Super League competition in 1997, which lasted only one season.
The ARL (now NRL) contracted and cut the Western Reds and there hasn’t been a team at that level in WA since.
►Don’t miss this unique opportunity to hear from five of the leading NRL CEO's plus two of the game's most inspirational identities at CCI’s upcoming luncheon — NRL Leaders Talk Business. Get your tickets here.