Off the Wall

It might not have made the headlines in Sydney, but yesterday's visit to Central Queensland by David Gallop and Graham Annesley to meet with the CQ Bid Team made the headines in Brisbane, and is even bigger news in Rockhampton and across the vast mining areas of Central Queensland today.

The CQ Bid is an interesting one - and it differs significantly from potential new teams on the NSW Central South, in South East Queensland, and Perth.

It is going to present a significant dilemma for the independent commission (when it is finally up and running).

If the next one or two teams to enter the NRL are chosen on the basis of television viewing audience numbers alone, then the CQ Bid has a tough task ahead of it.

But if it is based on sponsorship potential, and the economic  value, and growth of the catchment area, then it will have a significant advantage over other bids, with the possible exception of Perth.

The catchment area for the bid is matched only in terms of economic growth, employment generation etc by the Pilbara in Western Australia. That is why the CQ Bid will be taken seriously if it is more than just about building television viewing audiences.

Getting the balance right in that regard won't be easy. But the NRL can learn from the AFL experience with its Western Sydney and Gold Coast teams.

Their location was clearly driven by television numbers - the AFL is negotiating a new television deal and is hoping for $1 billion over a five year period. It needs to significantly boost its Sydney and South East Queensland viewing numbers.

Ironically, it is that condition which might cause the AFL a lot of grief down the track.

The Gold Coast team will probably be a success. The coast has a large ex-Victorian population base and several strong local Aussie Rules teams - and licensed clubs. Having the AFL's best player, Gary Ablett, in its ranks won't do it any harm. They also have one Karmichael Hunt - who seems to have almost sunk without trace when it comes to the new clubs PR!

But it is clearly going to be much tougher going in Western Sydney...despite the seemingly unlimited budget the new franchise has been given by the AFL.

The NRL CEO and the independent commission will have the benefit of observing how both new franchises in the AFL are faring...and whether television numbers alone justify the location of a new team.

The case for a fourth Queensland team in the NRL is a strong one. An Ipswich-Logan team playing out of Suncorp Stadium has obvious appeal. But a team centred around the states massive resource growth communities can't be easily written off.

The competition for the 17th and 18th teams in the NRL is a healthy sign for the game. There are four serious contenders - NSW Central Coast, Ipswich/Logan, Central Queensland and probably Perth. A second New Zealand team cannot be ruled out entirely.

At first look Central Queensland may seem the outsider.

If sponsorship and economic factors have any significance when the decisions about future teams are made, Central Queensland will definitely be in the hunt!

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