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NRL WA boss cautious of “baggage” if a team is relocated to Perth

EXCLUSIVE: Perth would welcome a relocated NRL club so long as they leave their problems behind, according to the boss of rugby league in Western Australia.

CEO of NRL WA John Sackson told Macquarie Sports Radio he has been encouraged by the momentum building towards expansion of the league, either by adding new teams or moving existing ones, ahead of the new broadcast rights deal coming into effect for the 2023 season.

“At the same time, over the past 10 years we’ve had several false starts,” Sackson told Macquarie Sports Radio‘s Cam Reddin.

Relocation remains the most likely option, with an NRL report being prepared to advise the governing body how to best go about moving the game into new markets.

Breaking new ground remains high on the agenda for NRL boss Todd Greenberg and ARLC Chair Peter Beattie. All options are on the table.

Sackson remains buoyant about the possibility of a start-up club based in Perth playing out of HBF Park.

“In an ideal world, a team that could create its own culture from the ground up would be the ideal way to do it,” Sackson said.

He also believes the demand for rugby league in WA could make a Perth side one of the best-supported teams in the competition.

“Obviously, any new club needs strong local membership to get that tribalism,” he said. “Conservatively, I’d be pretty confident that any new franchise in Western Australia would probably come out of the gate with a minimum of 10,000 members, possibly 15 or 20 (thousand)”.

But should the game opt for relocation rather than a ground-up approach, Sackson is wary of the manner in which any existing team may be pulled west of the Great Dividing Range.

“If a club was to be relocated you’d certainly hope that club wouldn’t come with too much baggage,” he said.

“If there is to be a relocation of a club clearly there is going to be a lot of angst, a lot of pain going through that process. Particularly from the market where that club would be located”.

“The rugby league public in Western Australia have been starved of rugby league for such a long period of time since the demise of the Reds that I would be pretty confident the market would really embrace a relocated franchise. Again, as long as that brand didn’t bring too much baggage”.

Manly, Cronulla and Wests Tigers have all been mooted as potential candidates for relocation to Perth.

Whatever the approach, Sackson hopes the NRL will flag its intentions in the near future so work can begin for entry to the competition in 2023.

“Those discussions and those decisions will need to be made fairly soon to enable any of these actions, be a start-up or be it a relocation of clubs, to take place,” Sackson said.

Hear the full interview below. Listen to the Weekend Warm-Up with Cam Reddin – 5.00am-7.00am Saturday and Sunday mornings