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Canberra Raiders and Gold Coast Titans woes set to scupper expansion plans

Cause for concern: Small crowds and poor results raises questions regarding the long-term viability of the Canberra Raiders.

Cause for concern: Small crowds and poor results raises questions regarding the long-term viability of the Canberra Raiders. Photo: Melissa Adams

Another dismal season in Canberra is raising questions about more than just Ricky Stuart 's recent coaching record, with expansion of the NRL now seeming unlikely unless existing clubs fold or re-locate.

Like Gold Coast Titans, the Raiders are under threat from AFL and some within the game are beginning to wonder about the long term viability of both clubs in their current locations.

The crowd at Sunday's 54-18 loss to the Warriors was Canberra's lowest of the season and the Raiders are set to record their worst attendance figures since before the Green Machine era when they averaged 6918 fans per match at Seiffert Oval in 1987.

Not much to cheer about: Fans react another Raiders loss.

Not much to cheer about: Fans react another Raiders loss. Photo: Melissa Adams

Their average home attendance so far this season is 9220 - the first year that crowds have dipped below 10,000 since 2001 and just the third since the then-premiers moved to GIO Stadium in 1990.

Having won just two of their past 12 matches and facing their first wooden spoon since Canberra's inaugural season in 1982, it is difficult to imagine the Raiders attracting fans in greater numbers for their remaining home games.

The club continues to produce and develop talented juniors but struggles to retain them, with emerging superstar Anthony Milford having signed for the Broncos and young centre Matt Allwood joining the Warriors.

The greater fear is that future talent will be lost to AFL, with GWS Giants playing three premiership games plus a pre-season match each year at Manuka Oval and Canberra boasting 16 clubs who field 83 teams in the local competition.

In contrast, there are 69 teams representing 17 clubs in western Sydney.

While the NRL has directed most of its resources in protecting the game from AFL in western Sydney, the ratio of children playing the rival code as opposed to other sports is 4.1 per cent compared to 5.2 per cent in Canberra.

With another 21 clubs and 95 teams in the South Coast, Illawarra and southern Sydney regions, the Dragons and Raiders are pushing for more support from the NRL to combat AFL's drive through their territories from Victoria.

Backed by the Canberra Raiders Group, which boasts nine licensed clubs and has other significant financial investments, the Raiders are in no danger of folding but some rival club officials recently expressed concerns to this column about Canberra's ongoing relevance to the NRL given their crowds, lack of interest from Channel Nine and the problems attracting players to the nation's capital.

Doubts about the Titans future have also emerged after Gold Coast's new owners recently launched a review of every facet of the club's operations to find ways for the club to stop bleeding money.

Average attendances in 10 home matches so far this season are 13,382 - less than two thirds of the 21,618 average Gold Coast attracted in their first season at Skilled Park in 2008.

The Titans are in a losing battle with the Gold Coast Suns, whose average crowds have increased to 17,237 this season and are underwritten by the AFL to the tune of $20 million per season.

Without greater support from the NRL to help them compete, some within the club have reportedly questioned whether the Titans should consider relocating and that would appear the best chance of a new region gaining a team in the premiership.

The NRL is due to consider expansion at the end of the season and the Brisbane Bombers, Central Coast Bears, West Coast Pirates, Papua New Guinea Hunters and consortiums in Ipswich, Rockhampton and Wellington have already established bid teams.

But after the NRL was recently forced to take over the ownership of Newcastle, as well as providing financial assistance for Wests Tigers, St George Illawarra and Cronulla, club bosses are unlikely to support any increase in the number of teams.

One influental club chief executive recently told this column he believed the NRL should focus on dominating the east coast of Australia by introducing more teams in Queensland, including another in Brisbane to rival the Broncos - but only if the likes of the Sharks or Raiders relocated.






57 comments so far

  • Give Canberra fans a team that can win games, or even have a chance of winning games, and the fans will return. I dropped my membership of the Raiders two years ago and have stopped attending games since then. I am also giving very serious thought to cancelling my Foxtel subscription because of the lack of support given to the Club by the NRL and Murdoch.

    If the NRL ignores the plight of the Raiders caused by the AFL and Rugby Union and Soccer then it deserves to lose the Canberra region with its junior players and its good financial support - then again the Sydney-centric rugby league has never supported Canberra (or Illawarra) and this is instanced by its treatment in the early 90's over salary cap breaches and the '13 import rule' imposed on Canberra in 1982 that caused these

    Date and time
    August 04, 2014, 3:36PM
    • Canberra traditionally was never a RL town anyway, it was the Raiders from QBN and the influx of people from NSW and QLD that changed the football code demographic in recent years. Canberra's population explosion in the 70s - mid 80s was a result of Victorians and South Australians moving here with the Public Service. Alex Jesaulenko and Kevin Neale put Football on the map here, long before blown-ins from QLD like Mal Meninga and Steve Walters etc.

      Perhaps it's time, the Raiders relocated North and left Canberra to our REAL Australian game.

      AFL Canberra
      Date and time
      August 04, 2014, 8:34PM
    • NRL is a working class sport, but Canberra is a white collar town. The demographics arent an ideal fit. Nevertheless, last September the Raiders hosted Cronulla in a sellout semi-final. Canberrans will attend league if you give them something meaningful.

      The NRL season is too long, it means each game isnt important. The top 8 means you can wait until the final 5 rounds before taking up any interest. The NRL must focus on quality over quantity. Would a 5-game Origin series work?! NO

      The NRL season must be cut to 20 rounds and it should only be a top 7 or top 6.

      Give us quality!!!

      Date and time
      August 04, 2014, 9:12PM
    • @AFL Canberra

      Oh you mean the 10 people that turn up to watch 'our' Canberra council sponsored greater western Sydney juggernaut? Tell us another joke you are hilarious!

      Date and time
      August 04, 2014, 9:28PM
    • @AFL Canberra. You obviously know little about the history of any form of football in the Monaro Region. Organised Rugby League was played in that area as far back as the 1900's well before Australian Rules gained its tenuous foothold. I am afraid that if your memory only goes as far back as a "population explosion in the 70's - mid 80's" then you really should not be talking about history

      Date and time
      August 04, 2014, 9:50PM
    • Terry, the first Australian football game played in the ACT was 1911. The ACT was only formed a year earlier. suggest you do some research of your own.

      hawks/rabbitohs premiers 2014
      Date and time
      August 04, 2014, 10:54PM
    • hawks/rabbitohs premiers 2014 The active words being 'organised' and 'Monaro Region'

      Date and time
      August 05, 2014, 7:00AM
  • One big challenge for the Titans is where the stadium is at Robina. Just too far and too difficult for most tourists given the parking issues etc. I have had two friends go there while holidaying on the Coast and both have 'never again' stories in terms of getting there and back.

    Big Pete
    Date and time
    August 04, 2014, 3:59PM
    • Totally agree, very difficult to leave and enter the stadium. You feel like cattle. Titans lost me as a supporter when a couple seasons ago, a family was one adult one children for the price of a family of four. I live on the coast and rather travel to the Broncos.

      Gold Coast
      Date and time
      August 04, 2014, 6:48PM
    • The Titans need to stop changing their jersey every bloody year! And they need to volunteer more in the community. They can get good crowds.

      But also the NRL needs to stop scheduling games at all manner of absurd timeslots.

      Would any person like their favorite soap or sitcom coming on at a different hour every week?! NO

      NRL HQ needs a rocket. They have a great sport on their hands but cant manage it to save themselves. And that man at Channel 9 is ruining the league - Gyngell!

      Date and time
      August 04, 2014, 9:15PM

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CRO 22vs GCT 24 Report Stats
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CBY 17vs SOU 18 Report Stats
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NZW 32vs WST 22 Report Stats
PEN 22vs MAN 12 Report Stats
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STG 31vs CBY 6 Report Stats
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CBY 28vs MAN 16 Report Stats
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NEW 18vs CBY 20 Stats
MEL 14vs NQL 6 Report Stats
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