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Belgian Billionaire Looks To 2nd NZ
The push is back on for a second NRL franchise in New Zealand with a Belgian billionaire ready to finance the side, according to the NZ Rugby League.
NZRL chairman Selwyn Pearson on Tuesday night said he had been approached by a businessman who was keen to support a franchise, be it in Wellington or Auckland.
Pearson also said he had written a letter to NRL chief executive David Gallop stressing the need for a second team across the Tasman.
"We have got the backing of a Belgian billionaire for a second side," Pearson said.
"He's come out of the woodwork.
"He absolutely loves the game. He's going to his first grand final ever.
"For the good of the game there has to be another team in New Zealand.
"For the good of the international scene there needs to be more franchises here."
The businessman's identity became a mystery when Pearson declined to identify him.
Gallop confirmed he had received a letter from Pearson but reiterated the NRL had no plans to expand the competition in the immediate future.
However, Gallop said when the league decided to expand NZ would be included in the mix with the Gold Coast and Central Coast.
Gallop said NRL chief operating officer Graham Annesley would meet with officials from NZ next month to discuss their bid for a second team.
"If there was to be any expansion of the competition the Central Coast and Gold Coast would be considered," Gallop said.
"It's great to see areas like that champing at the bit to get in the competition."
The push for a second franchise in NZ has been fuelled by the continued success of the Warriors, who are only one win from their second consecutive grand final.
Warriors chief executive Mick Watson said he would support expansion down the track, but claimed the game wasn't ready yet.
Watson also said the Warriors were ready to challenge the All Blacks, a Kiwi institution, as the No.1 team in that country.
"This team is challenging the All Blacks for national pride," Watson said.
"It's realistic. There comes a time when you have to pick a fight.
"We're not getting cocky or arrogant. We're getting aspirations behind the jersey.
"This team is full of pride. They're giving Kiwis pride. It's giving them something to cheer for."
Watson also said Warriors owner Eric Watson would put in a bid to control a second franchise if it became available
When asked when he thought expansion was feasible, Watson replied: "In three to five years, no doubt.
"There has been growth on the field and off the field.
"We would be one of those putting in for a franchise."
But the Warriors management team is likely to have a fight on its hands from other bidders, including the NZRL.
"We have started a business plan already," Pearson said.
"This is a fantastic breeding ground."
Pearson also indicated the NZRL would be willing to speak to current clubs about relocating.