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Brisbane Firehawks boss wants to “take the AFL on” in QLD


Experienced rugby league executive Shane Richardson is confident in the Brisbane Firehawks’ bid to become the NRL’s 17th franchise.

Richardson, who’s in charge of the Firehawks’ expansion push, was instrumental in both South Sydney’s 2014 premiership and Penrith’s 2003 success while heading those clubs, and he believes he can create a similar system with the Firehawks.

Speaking on SEN 1170 Afternoons, Richardson explained why a 17th club is necessary for the NRL in Queensland.

“I really believe what we’ve got to do is take the AFL head on,” Richardson said.

“They (the AFL) have opened up an academy and their operations in Springfield, just west of Ipswich which is the heart of rugby league.

“I think now’s the time to inject all the different feeling into the game, different things to talk about and different opportunities.

“I don’t buy into the attitude that there’s not enough players to go around, I’ve spent my life building up clubs from a zero base to winning premierships and I did that by bringing in players who needed an opportunity.

“We need to expand our pathways in Queensland and help the QRL with participation rates, and the battle against the AFL would push that.

“I think a 17th team would be nothing but a positive for the state and the game in general.”

With Brisbane being a one-team town currently with the Broncos, Richardson believes they won’t feel threatened by the Firehawks’ bid as they don’t plan on stealing their sponsors or supporters.

“Funnily enough, they (the Broncos) are one of the clubs which I haven’t found a lot of push back at all,” Richardson explained.

“They understand the competition, you’ve got to remember there’s only four clubs in the competition that make a profit, and they’re one of them.

“We’re not going to diminish their profits, and the whole crux of our business is based on doing things differently and in a digital world.

“We’re not going to take their sponsors or their rusted on supporters.

“The NRL has a challenge on their hands with the demographics of their memberships.

“What we’re trying to do is create a club that gets heavily involved in that 18-40 bracket.

“We want to do things differently and be sort of outlaws when it comes to doing things differently, and I think that can only assist.

“We’re not going to steal their sponsors or supporters, we’re going to create new ones in different areas.”

With expansion now looking likely to be pushed back until 2024, Richardson said his team was still ready to pull the trigger on 2023 if the NRL sticks to its original timeline.

“Originally, they spoke about 2023,” Richardson said.

“But, from our view, if it was 2024 due to COVID, that wouldn’t concern us at all.

“We’re ready to go from 2023 … we’ve got the coaching staff and everything else sorted out.

“It’s just a matter of pushing the button, the structure and everything is put in place.

“It’s no different to the structure we’ve put in place at clubs like Penrith, Cronulla and Souths, which have been successful.

“We know what’s required, we just need a timeline.

“Hopefully it’s 2023, but if not we’re happy with 2024.”

The Firehawks will compete against bids from the Brisbane Jets and Redcliffe Dolphins who are both also vying to become the NRL’s 17th franchise.

Listen to the full chat here.

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