NRL Expansion: Brisbane Bombers bid will struggle to connect with supporters

@Hayward_AdamK

NRL expansion has been a hot topic in recent years and with Brisbane is all but certain to receive a second team, there is much debate as to which of the four reported bid teams should receive the competitions 17th license.

The Redcliffe Dolphins, Brisbane Firehawks (Easts Tigers) and the Western Corridor have all received plenty of support, but there is a general consensus that the people of Brisbane do not support the Bombers bid.

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Unlike the other three bid teams, the Bombers have no identity, no history and no affiliation with a Queensland Cup side. A soulless franchise.

The Dolphins were founded in 1947, the Firehawks, backed by the East Tigers which were founded in 1917 and the Western Corridor, backed by the Ipswich Jets which were founded in 1982 – all of which have achieved success during their long and rich history.

When the Broncos franchise started out in the NSWRL, they were a club that had the history of Queensland rugby league and the success of the Maroons in State of Origin behind them.  

The only history associated with the Bombers is the nickname they chose, copied from one of the AFL’s oldest and most celebrated clubs, Essendon. One must wonder whether the Bombers nickname would connect with rugby league supporters.

**NRL Expansion: Brisbane’s Western Corridor cannot be ignored

The Bombers bid is backed by wealthy investors and is partnered by one of the NRL’s broadcasters, channel 9. They’ve easily received the most media attention of all the bids and to their credit, the Bombers business model is highly satisfactory.

But the main purpose behind Brisbane receiving a second team, is more games played at Suncorp Stadium and irrespective of the Bombers business credentials, will they garner enough support to draw big crowds?

The Dolphins and Western Corridor bids have a geographical advantage over the Bombers and for that reason, it is likely they will have a large, organic supporter base ready to go if one of those bids were to obtain an NRL license.

The Dolphins have the Morton Bay region and will claim the Sunshine Coast and the Western Corridor have Ipswich and Logan, and they are claiming the Darling Downs region.

The Firehawks bid are trying to manufacture a geographical divide by splitting Brisbane into a ‘North vs South’ rivalry with the Broncos, and claiming the south as their own.

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The Bombers however, will likely be inner-metropolitan based and competing directly with the Broncos for support. They can claim to represent the regions of the other bids, but why would the people of Ipswich, Logan, Toowoomba, Redcliffe and the Sunshine Coast emotionally invest their support in the Brisbane Bombers?

It is hard to work out how their bid will be inclusive to those regions surrounding Brisbane.

Perhaps their first mistake was calling themselves Brisbane, instead of South Queensland. Inclusivity in the naming of their bid, like the Townsville based North Queensland Cowboys who are passionately supported everywhere north of Bundaberg.

Will a local derby against the Broncos at Suncorp Stadium sell out with 30,000 Broncos fans and 20,000 Bombers fans? Can they draw 25,000 to Suncorp Stadium on their own ever second week? It is difficult to see it happening for them, at least not for the first few years anyway.

A club does need to start somewhere though. It will interesting to see how they can encourage the people of Brisbane to buy in to the Bombers brand, believe in their values and build a strong supporter base.