It is a matter of when, not if, New Zealand get a second NRL team, according to highly regarded Australian rugby league official Paul Travis.
Travis has had a heavy involvement with rugby league in Australia including working with a host of NRL clubs as an adviser, acting as deputy chairman for the North Queensland Cowboys from 2000 to 2008, and holding advisory roles with Australian Rugby League and Queensland Rugby League.
He has made three trips to Invercargill this year to provide advice to the Southern Steel and Netball Southland boards.
Yesterday, during an interview with The Southland Times, he emphatically called for a New Zealand team to be introduced to the NRL and believed it would happen within the next 10 years.
"I guarantee there will be a second team out of New Zealand, sooner rather than later. I know it's going to happen, whether you want it to or not, it doesn't matter, it's going to happen, TV tells you.
"The ARL commission is about to do a deal on a billion-plus for NRL rights, all the stats tell me rugby league has huge ratings in New Zealand, so with the right business model there will be a second team, definitely," Travis said.
"The quality of players would be there. Bear in mind the Cowboys now have talent ID guys in Auckland; a lot of clubs do. There are a lot of good Kiwis coming out of New Zealand, they do need another presence, I don't know where. What's it going to cost? Low – $12 million; high – $28 million for the Broncos, so somewhere in the middle.
"Can you do it? Yes you can. You've just got to get the right people and it will happen."
Travis said there was an obvious clash in New Zealand between rugby union and rugby league codes but felt both could benefit from each other, particularly rugby union, by encouraging youngsters to have a go at rugby league.
His belief was that New Zealand's promising young rugby players would become better players with a taste of league at a young age.
"My comment would be, you want a little boy, or girl, to play rugby league in juniors so they learn defence.
"For no other reason rugby should be happy for them to play rugby league as cross balance," he said.
"Matty Bowen, one of the great fullbacks of rugby league, and Jonathan Thurston, one of the great halfbacks, I signed both of those guys, we had them doing a Aussie Rules kicking programme so they can kick right and left.
"We do that all the time. Ewen McKenzie, very close friend, he coaches the Reds, where did he spend last weekend?
"He spent three days with the Souths rugby league club with their coaches learning about defensive patterns. He's one of the great coaches in world rugby. If Ewen McKenzie can go to rugby league and say help, then why wouldn't you do that?
"I watched two, what you call college or high school [rugby] games between Kings and [Otago Boys] in Dunedin. They were outstanding, but they can't tackle. I thought, `they can't be the best, they're very good but there's got to be better'. Well I found out latter they were the best. There was one backrower there that could tackle properly. Rugby league teaches juniors how to be defensive and tackle."
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