National Rugby League players are overwhelmingly in support of expansion and most favour the addition of a Perth based team according to the annual Rugby League Week magazine’s Players’ Poll.
Along with questions about on field issues, the magazine polled players on their attitudes towards expansion and the performance of the Independent Commission.
Of 100 players polled 88 said they backed expansion. Those who voted yes were allowed to nominate one or two candidates. A Perth franchise received 66 votes, with Brisbane Bombers 33, Central Coast NSW 22 and 11 votes for others including Central Queensland, PNG, and second New Zealand based franchise.
The ARL Commission has yet to commit to an expansion timetable, although is thought to be favoring a 2015 inclusion of one or two sides. With a new TV deal being worked on, both the ARLC and the competing broadcasters are believed to be eager to add a ninth game to the week’s schedule and Perth offers an attractive time zone difference.
A Perth-based bid, the WA Rugby League controlled West Coast Pirates, is well advanced.
John Sackson, the CEO of the WARL, said he was “very encouraged by the response of the players.
“That is pretty overwhelming support forPerth,” Sackson told SB Insider. “I believe it reflects a desire or appetite for the players to see the game expand and move towards a full National Rugby League again.
“They are showing they believe there is a need to take their game beyond the east coast heartland. I sense that players see the AFL has a clear vision and strategy for expansion – they’ve moved outside their comfort zones and it would be wonderful for the NRL to adopt a similar approach, and Perth is fertile ground for expansion.”
Perth is on show again this weekend with Manly playing the Warriors and a crowd of more than 17,000 expected. ARLC officials will be in town to meet with Sackson and other leading rugby league stakeholders.
RLW also asked players if the Independent Commission, which had come into effect this year, had been good for the game. Fifty-four percent said yes, 32 per cent said no and 14 percent said they were unsure or it was too early to tell.