There's only one city that truly makes sense for NRL expansion

There's only one spot for the NRL's next team - and it's not North Sydney Oval.

Much like stories about high speed rail are an inevitability before an election, the train is never late when it comes to musings about expanding the NRL hitting the news cycle every few months.

One rumoured bid - the front-runner, according to a recent story in the Daily Telegraph - would be to have a Pasifika franchise based out of Cairns that would play some home games in Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, and possibly even North Sydney.

It's a combination of ideas that genuinely feels like someone went on ChatGPT and said 'Please amalgamate every idea about NRL expansion that people have had in the past few years'.

Except, of course, the one that makes the most sense.

An NRL future without a Perth team is one the sport can't afford to see. There's no location more obvious, and more ready, to welcome a team.

The administration's general apathy towards climbing ticket prices ($40 to stand on a hill at Leichhardt Oval?) and game-day experiences in general have reiterated what we already knew; this is a TV sport, first and foremost. And if that's the case, why not try and lock in a new market in terms of not just fans, but a TV market as well?

For years the AFL has monopolised Sunday twilight views at pubs, even in the rugby league parts of Sydney, due to the 4.40pm local time kickoff that is often bestowed upon West Coast or Fremantle. Even if you ignore all the practical reasons, Perth trumps any east coast bid for this reason alone.

Not only that, but locals have shown their willingness to get behind teams other than just the Eagles and Dockers. The Scorchers have enjoyed bumper crowds this past BBL season, the Wildcats have been the hottest ticket in the NBL for much of the competition's existence, and the Glory had healthy crowds until a combination of COVID and the renovation of their home ground over the past couple of seasons.

The two State of Origin games at Optus Stadium both recorded sellouts of more than 59,000 people, and an NRL double header at the same ground drew 40,000 or so in 2018. The average of the 13 games held at Perth Rectangular Stadium between 2005 and 2017 would be healthy enough for any club not named the Broncos as well.

The latter would be an obvious, and freshly renovated, site for a rugby league team. Even North Sydney chairman Daniel Dickson conceded that a new bid with the Bears logo and colours attached could be "agile enough to know that it won't just be placed in North Sydney", so why not strike a deal in more ways than one?

The idea of the Perth Bears, absorbing Norths' colours, logo and history, is not a new concept - but if we are to move forward with an 18th team, it's an opportunity to secure a compromise that could please both those who want the NRL to become truly national, and those who still pine for one of the forgotten lights of yesteryear. On top of that, you could even have one game a year at North Sydney Oval, which would become a truly special day on the calendar.

But whether it's the Bears, the Pirates or even dusting off the old Reds gear and getting Cash Converters involved as a sponsor, there's only one city that truly makes sense for the NRL to plant their flag next.