NRL News: Commission now eyeing off NZ city for expansion, Cowboys fume at Gus over wrong call on star’s contract


The chances of a second New Zealand team coming into the NRL are rising with the ARL Commission identifying Christchurch as a potential expansion venue later this decade.

While the PNG bid is still the frontrunner to become the 18th team, possibly as early as 2026, the NRL is set to expand to 20 franchises a couple of years later and another outfit in NZ is firming to be one of the options.

A Perth-based bid, potentially in partnership with the North Sydney Bears, is the other option that is gaining traction with the Commission.

ARL chair Peter V’landys said in a NewsCorp interview that “a second New Zealand team has merit”.

“Maybe not as the 18th team, because we are looking to PNG with the support of the Australian government, but it certainly has merit if we go to 20 teams.

“When (Roosters chairman) Nick Politis says we should be considering 20 teams, you certainly do it because he is a very successful businessman. The Warriors have been wonderful for the game. There is a lot of support in New Zealand.

“We should have a strategy to get there (to 20 teams) at a certain time, whether that’s three years, five years or 10 years.”

The Warriors have stated their opposition to another team coming into the NRL but the prospect of a team in the South Island would create a “local derby” which would bring another rivalry to the competition and also help with the draw by having another side in a friendly time zone.

Gus in strife with Cowboys over leaking contract info

Canterbury general manager Phil Gould has earned the ire of the Cowboys after claiming on his podcast that gun forward Heilum Luki had sealed a deal to remain with North Queensland.

The club has denied that they have agreed to terms with Luki, who has been chased by several teams including the Dragons and Dolphins, who have offered lucrative long-term contracts.

“It was kind of expected he’d take a big offer to go elsewhere to the Dragons or Dolphins,” Gould said on Six Tackles with Gus.

Heilum Luki. (Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images)

“He had an option in his favour to stay with the club and has elected to stay. I don’t think they thought that was going to happen.

“That will put a lot of pressure on (re-signing) Kulikefu Finefeuiaki, who is an outstanding young talent and probably on a much smaller contract than he can get somewhere else.

“They’d have to upgrade him to keep him, but they didn’t have that sort of money available, particularly after Heilum Luki took up his option to stay.”

The Cowboys recently released Luciano Leilua to St George Illawarra, who are also chasing Finefeuiaki as part of Shane Flanagan’s roster rebuild.

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