Another week, another expansion bone has been tossed to the ravenous dogs that are NRL nerds on social media to endlessly chew over. I say that like I wasn’t in there first and not still gnawing on it. I just can’t help myself.
This week, the target was the south-east Queensland expansion team dropped into the competition in 2007 that hasn’t turned out to be another Broncos, denying the broadcasters an opportunity to have multiple games with one million viewers each week.
In true Australian fashion, instead considering the historical accidents that have led to this point (i.e. basing the footprint of a supposedly national competition on the demographics of Sydney circa 1908 whose growth has then been fuelled by pokie dollars or previous south-east Queensland franchises that have failed, undercut by a hostile media and inept management) and attempting to rectify them or improve the presentation of the product so that it might appeal beyond Nine’s core audience of decrepit boomers, an executive contacted a buddy in the extremely accommodating media to have a good old fashioned whinge, Gerry Harvey-style. The consequence was the publication of several of the same think pieces we’ve seen before about why Sydney clubs must be protected at all costs.
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We’re talking about the clubs, not actual people, so it probably won’t be as depressing as the title implies.
This started out as an examination of which rugby league club could claim to be the best expansion team, in the same vein as the Vegas Golden Knights who disputed the NHL’s Stanley Cup in their first season. It would surprise no one to discover that the Melbourne Storm are the best expansion team of all time in rugby league, taking all of two seasons to win a premiership and then winning another
four two in just twenty years of life. That kind of precociousness is hated in children and it seems would also apply to the Victorians.
Instead, what I found more interesting was how many clubs had fallen by the wayside. The original Northern Union was founded in 1895 with twenty-two clubs while the New South Wales Rugby Football League was founded in 1908 with just nine members. How many of those were still standing after all this time?
Last time, we went off-piste and moved from rigorous analysis to speculative analysis. Let’s go further off-piste and apply Cap in ways that it was never meant to be (that’s why we’ve switched from “Analysis” to “Opinion”, even I have my limits).
Because of the capacity constraints discussed a few weeks ago, it’s a bit hard to judge just how popular NRL expansion would be in Brisbane. Using some Cap metrics, we can estimate what an “optimal” number of clubs might look like.
If we only care about maintaining a 15,000 average attendance, then:
- 6 teams would give a Cap of 2.2
- 5 teams = 2.6
- 4 teams = 3.3
- 3 teams = 4.4
- 2 teams = 6.5
On the other hand, if we use the relationship between teams per capita and Cap developed a few weeks ago: