Nine boss keen for NRL expansion

Channel Nine Network chief executive David Gyngell (right) can see the value of another Queensland team.
Channel Nine Network chief executive David Gyngell (right) can see the value of another Queensland team. PAUL MILLER

TYING up two-and-a-half hours of Channel 9 boss David Gyngell's time was a coup for CQ NRL Bid campaigners Denis Keeffe and Geoff Murphy.

The CQ NRL Bid chief executive and chairman were on a recent mission in Sydney to discuss NRL expansion and the inclusion of a Central Queensland-based team with Gyngell.

Having arrived an hour early for their meeting at Channel 9's Willoughby office, they were just getting comfortable when the receptionist approached the pair.

"She asked who we were, and we were suddenly ushered into his office straight away ... he is such a busy man and to sit down with him for two-and-a-half hours was very encouraging," Keeffe said on his return to Rockhampton.

"Gyngell had a fair bit to say about it, and where a team should go. He is an absolute rugby league nut."

The Rockhampton pair were buoyed by Gyngell's support of expansion and the addition of another Queensland team to the present 16-team NRL competition.

"Many people have got it into their heads that NRL expansion was off the cards for the next five years following last month's $1 billion broadcasting agreement with Nine and Fox Sports," Keeffe said.

"But Gyngell said that was just the assumption people had made because it was not mentioned in the announcement. He also said expansion was not brought up at all during negotiations for the TV deal, but it was something he could not overlook."

Of particular interest to Gyngell, was the ninth game in the NRL draw which, through Australian anti-siphoning laws, would have to be shown on Free-to-Air TV (Channel 9).

"The idea of scheduling a local Queensland derby for this ninth game was appealing to him. Derby games between the Broncos, Titans and Cowboys always rate off the scale in Queensland.

"Queenslanders consume rugby league at a rate like no other, and with so many Sydney-based teams already in the competition, it made sense to Gyngell to include another Queensland team in the mix - which would also provide variety," he said.

An Ipswich-based team or a team in Gosford were also viable options for Gyngell. These teams posed serious competition to a Central Queensland team, despite the fact a team in CQ was likely to prove as popular with the public as the North Queensland Cowboys.

During the same visit to Sydney, Keeffe and Murphy also met Fox Sports chief executive Patrick Delany.

"A 17-team competition appealed to Delaney ... Fox Sports would not get any extra games in their TV coverage, but they would most likely see subscriptions increase, with supporters wanting to watch their new team - especially for away games," Keeffe said.

The strategic importance of expansion from 16 to 18 teams for the NRL was also raised at the meetings with Gyngell and Delany.

"The heartland of the game needs to be secured against the expansion ambitions of the AFL.

"The AFL have published their expansion plans and these plans include another AFL team located in the rugby league heartland of regional Queensland. A CQ NRL team would lock up the east coast of Australia for the NRL for generations and effectively block the AFL in regional Queensland," he said.

The next six months are crucial for the CQ NRL Bid.

"The plan is due out late this year or early 2013, and we could know by then if we have a team in the competition," Keeffe said.

Topics:  channel nine cq nrl bid rugby league

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