Revealed! The new Brisbane team Bennett will back
NRL super coach Wayne Bennett has broken his silence on expansion, declaring the code is ready for a 17th team and calling for Redcliffe to be promoted as the second Brisbane club to take on the Broncos in 2023.
As ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys prepares to ramp-up expansion plans, Bennett delivered his blueprint for the code's growth and why Brisbane's Peninsula is tailor-made to help deliver a $2 billion-plus bonanza in the NRL's next TV rights deal.
It is understood five consortia have already contacted the ARLC to flag their intention to submit formal bids, but Bennett - a Broncos and Queensland icon - says there is one region crying out for an NRL licence.
"Redcliffe is the way to go - they have a ready-made club for the NRL," Bennett told The Courier-Mail in his most expansive interview on the expansion debate.
"To me, it makes sense.
"Redcliffe are a very financial club, they have a huge junior base, they have a powerful state league club in the Dolphins, and they have all the infrastructure.
"The northern corridor of Brisbane is just getting bigger and bigger. The fan base there would be sensational.
"Wherever the NRL goes in Brisbane, the brand has to be sellable to Queensland fans. A name like Brisbane Dolphins would certainly work for me.
"They would be ready to go for the NRL in 2023. The ARL Commission has to treat a Redcliffe bid with great seriousness."
Bennett is sure to become a coaching target for the prospective Brisbane bid teams.
The seven-time premiership-winning coach is off-contract at Souths at the end of next year and confirmed last week he will pass the baton to his assistant Jason Demetriou at Redfern for 2022.
Asked if he would be keen to coach a Redcliffe team in 2023, Bennett chuckled and said: "No comment. Leave me out of that one."
But the 70-year-old was more forthcoming when asked to explain why a second Brisbane team - based at Redcliffe - could benefit the code on several fronts.
"What I like about the idea of expansion (for 2023) is that it's only more team," he said.
"We can manage one more team for a 17-team comp. Two teams is a bridge too far.
"What I also like is that every NRL team gets a bye throughout the season with 17 teams. That gives NRL players another week's rest during the season. That's a positive.
"The other thing is if we want more income to secure the code's future, we need another team in Queensland.
"I'm not a fan of teams in Perth or New Zealand. We need to maximise people watching the NRL and a second Brisbane team will do that.
"Any person who isn't a Broncos fan will gravitate towards another Brisbane club regardless of where they put it.
"Redcliffe will already have a state league of players to support the NRL team. It's all there. These guys don't have to go and pillage other NRL clubs to find 40-odd players for their state league team.
"When we started the Broncos (in 1988), the one thing myself and the founders stayed true to was building a club that would stand the test of time.
"We didn't want shortcuts. We didn't talk about winning a premiership in the first year. It was about building the right base for a long-term future and I'm so proud of what the Broncos have since become.
"From day one, the second Brisbane team needs infrastructure. Redcliffe has already got that.
"The beauty for a 17th team is that all the salaries are paid for by the game now.
"It takes an enormous amount of money and energy to start up another NRL club and Redcliffe have the base already there.
"Today, the NRL clubs get funding that covers the salary cap, so given Redcliffe's leagues club and their junior base, they have a hugely successful future."
The counterargument to a Redcliffe NRL team is that a Peninsula team will alienate more than 2.4 million people in the wider Brisbane metropolitan area.
The Bombers, for example, will be based in the inner-city, arguing that no kid from Logan will be interested in following a Redcliffe NRL team some 57km away.
Bennett, however, believes a second Brisbane team at Redcliffe will attract fans across the Sunshine State.
"I don't believe going to the Peninsula alienates other fans in Brisbane," the Broncos foundation coach said.
"No one will resent Redcliffe. If you market it as a second Brisbane team, people all over Brisbane have the opportunity to embrace the Dolphins.
"There are people in north Queensland who support the Broncos.
"There's no reason kids in Logan can't support a second Brisbane team from Redcliffe.
"It's all about putting in the right infrastructure and having the right coaches to create the momentum to win over the public."
Bennett scoffed at suggestions a second Brisbane team could threaten the survival of the Gold Coast Titans, who became the NRL's 16th club in 2007.
"I don't know why people are talking about the impact on the Titans, there is no impact at all," he said.
"We all get the same salary cap. The Gold Coast was never created to impact on Brisbane and vice-versa.
"The Titans have a huge base on the Gold Coast and northern NSW, which is a massive growth area they can service if it's done right.
"What impacts on the Titans is themselves and how stable they are as a club and how their team plays.
"If the Titans live up to their potential, they won't have any concerns about crowds and the ability to attract players.
"A second Brisbane team will not kill off the Titans."