Penrith supremo Phil Gould has warned the NRL off the idea of relocation to help expansion, with Kiwi star Shaun Johnson also voicing concern.
Expansion is back on the agenda after NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg backed the prospect of more games in more areas – namely Perth and a second Brisbane side – come the next television deal in 2023.
Greenberg is currently heading a footprint study for the game due by the end of this year, hailed by ARL Commission chairman Peter Beattie as the most professional analysis of expansion to date.
In an interview on Nine’s 100 Per Cent Football on Monday, Greenberg was unsure if there was enough talent to add two more teams and floated the idea of criteria and metrics around Sydney clubs.
Former Super League chief John Ribot also called for Sydney teams to be relocated earlier this week, given the nine franchises in a confined space.
But Gould warned there would likely be mixed reaction if a move was forced.
“Can you imagine if Ipswich or Redcliffe was to be given a franchise, but we’re going to move a team from Sydney … Do the locals feel like it’s their team? I wouldn’t think so,” Gould said on his Six Tackles with Gus podcast.
“I don’t know (if it would work in Perth). Relocation is a safe way of saying ‘you’re done, you have to move’.
“I remember distinctly when South Sydney were removed from the competition and the trouble it caused. People walked the streets to have them reinstated.”
Gould also reasoned that if player development was improved, there would be enough talent to expand the game with extra teams.
His comments came as Kiwi star Johnson – whose native New Zealand also remain an expansion option through a second side – argued that fans wouldn’t follow or welcome relocated teams.
“I’ll use this place (Cronulla) for an example: I couldn’t imagine a club with as much history as the Sharks relocating,” Johnson said.
“I don’t know how those fans would react.”
“I don’t really get the idea of relocating more than anything. You may as well just start fresh and throw a new team in.”