Gareth Ellis – Let’s not start thinking outside the box too soon

Super League chief executive Robert Elstone: Has already brought in new ideas.  Picture: Tony Johnson.
Super League chief executive Robert Elstone: Has already brought in new ideas. Picture: Tony Johnson.
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I’M not sure we’re ready for further expansion in rugby league here with New York and Ottawa both making bids to make a push for Super League.

It’s funny as we’re having the same conversations as the NRL about expansion – whether you build a new team or relocate current teams – but I think it’s probably a little bit different in Australia.

With Robert Elstone recently taking over at Super League and a few changes in the way the game is run, I think we’re now in a position where we can really build, starting with the foundations.

Gareth Ellis

They’re in a much stronger position to expand, albeit there’s those that oppose it over there.

It’s obviously the NRL – the National Rugby League competition – but plenty of people, particularly non-rugby league people, laugh at that title given the AFL is probably the one that has the biggest coverage across the country.

With regards the game here, I’m not sure if we fully know yet how Toronto will work if they ever get into Super League.

On that basis, I’m not sure if we are ready for more expansion.

Of course, there’s probably some pluses it can bring; Toronto have already brought a little bit of something to rugby league but do we go all guns blazing for another one – New York or Ottawa – when we’re not even sure if this one has worked yet?

I don’t know how long it will take to actually find that out – whether the Wolfpack has been a success – so it’s a bold statement if we do go down that track.

Personally, I don’t think there’s any rush to expand the game.

We’ve tried it in the past and it’s not worked. I do think Toronto are showing some good signs but with Robert Elstone recently taking over at Super League and a few changes in the way the game is run, I think we’re now in a position where we can really build, starting with the foundations.

By that, I mean with the strong clubs we already have and build on those first before we start to spread ourselves too thinly.

That’s unless someone can throw an argument out there that this is going to help that, if, for example, there is some sort of crazy TV deal out there that can assist with the Super League and rugby league as a whole.

But, as an outsider looking in, I think we can build from within first before we start thinking too far outside of the box.

It’s a funny one in Australia as if you think about expansion over there you’d imagine it was a no-brainer really. Why wouldn’t you?

The league (NRL ) seems to be going from strength to strength, the TV deal’s absolutely enormous so why wouldn’t they want to have a team in Perth or another (there’s only three there at the minute) in Queensland?

The big argument for them is the saturation of teams in Sydney where there’s nine clubs and there’s talk of relocating one of those teams out of there.

They’ve tried that before when Manly got relocated to the Central Coast area and became the Northern Eagles. That didn’t work. At my old club Wests Tigers, 20 years on from when they merged, some people still steadfastly wear their Balmain or Western Suburbs jerseys.

Essentially, in the NRL now, it’s getting rid of a Sydney team; you’re not really relocating it as their fans aren’t going to go to Perth or Queensland.

It’s getting rid of one of those to build a new one elsewhere but given how strong the NRL brand is you’d think there would be an appetite to do that to spread the word.

There’s a lot of hurdles to overcome, though, for that to happen yet.