West Coast Pirates may play in English League
THE Western Australian Rugby League is toying with an audacious idea to enter its West Coast Pirates team in the English Super League after rugby league's Independent Commission put its expansionary plans for the NRL on the backburner.
The WARL was one of several organisations, including those from Port Moresby, Brisbane, Central Queensland, the Central Coast and New Zealand, vying for a place in an expanded NRL.
John Sackson, the WARL's chief executive, said his group was in a position where it had to investigate ''other options'' to help promote the code in that state and to maximise the Pirates brand. The club will consider finding a British city in which to base itself.
''We're looking at all options into the future given the delays with the expansion,'' Sackson said. ''The English Super League is definitely an idea we are exploring. The idea is still in its infancy, we have another board meeting coming up and we'll be looking deeper into that and start asking the relevant questions.
''We're also looking at playing in the Bundaberg Cup [in Sydney]. But England has been floated and while nothing is concrete, it is an idea we have tabled and will look into it.''
Sackson said it was important the WARL made a committed effort to ensure the Pirates played in some form of competition to give their growing member base a team to support. ''The decision to put the [NRL] expansion on hold was disappointing given our expectations were for 2013, then it was bumped back to 2015 and now, well, whenever.
''I still haven't ruled out that the commission may still change their views [on expanding the premiership in the near future] but now the commissioner John Grant has made that decision, we'll respect it and strengthen the foundations we've established here.
''We spent some quality time with John Grant here over the last few weeks and I'm very impressed by him. He handled the questions put to him by the market openly and honestly. As we told him, we respect that decision and we will work with it.
''We will remain aggressive in our approach. We'll broaden the West Coast Pirates brand via our SG Ball team after competing as the WA Reds over the last three years. The SG Ball players have been training together for over a month and we also have our West Coast Junior Rugby League Academy, which grooms 13- to 15-year-olds for SG Ball and state representation.
''We have three NRL games being played here next year and we plan to do everything we can for those clubs to make it a success, we're targeting between 15,000-20,000 for each match. If we continue to produce those results and build junior playing numbers it will have to put us in a favourable position when the commission review their expansion options.''
Sackson said sales of the Pirates' merchandise and memberships allied with social media activity proved there was an appetite for league in the AFL stronghold.