The NRL has announced a clear intention to grow the game at the country level.
The NRL has announced a clear intention to grow the game at the country level.

Greenberg wants second-tier team from bush

NRL boss Todd Greenberg has signalled his personal dream to put a second-tier team in the bush as part of the league's bold long-time plan to expand the game.

The NRL officially trumpeted expansion as one of its pillars in a new five-year strategic plan, throwing the doors open for bids to join the NSW and Queensland reserve grade competitions.

The inaugural women's competition, the NSW State Government's multi-billion stadia plan,  and a restructured Immortals concept were also deemed key factors in the NRL's long-term designs.

However, it is the governing body's fresh openness to growth in new areas that has ARL commission chairman Peter Beattie and Greenberg giddy with excitement about the next few years.

Their plan is to introduce potential new teams in the second tier leagues.

"What we are calling out there is an ambition and an aspiration to grow, and that starts with NSW and Queensland competitions," Greenberg said.

"It starts with opportunities for new teams to enter those markets. We've already seen that, this is well under way."

Greenberg described Papua New Guinea's inclusion in the Intrust Super Cup since 2014 as "phenomenal" and said Fiji was knocking on the door to enter the NSW league.

It is believed plans are under way to have a Perth team also playing in the Intrust Super Premiership in NSW, and  Cairns and Redcliffe have also signalled their interest.

And then there's Greenberg's desire to bring elite football to country areas.

The VB Country Origin side.
The VB Country Origin side.

"There are regional centres in country NSW that are building from the base at the moment with investment in 16s and 18s talent identification programs," he said.

"I'd love to see one day a second-tier team coming and playing out of the bush affiliated to an NRL competition and team.

"These are long-term aspirations for the game and Peter, rightfully, as chairman with a vision looking forward, is calling them out and saying, 'Let's consider what might be next'."

Beattie said the most crucial criteria for bids was being financially sound, reminding potential franchises the NRL was no longer able to prop up teams.

"People will have to demonstrate their financial capabilities. If an NRL club fails, at the end of the day we have to pick up the crumbs and that costs a lot of money," he said.

"We don't have a huge amount of money to do that.

"I'm saying this absolutely clearly. You've got to be financially viable, the first step, then you've got to put all the other layers on it. There'll be a process and you'll see a lot more of this, this is the beginning of it.

"We're putting out a clear intention that expansion is back on."