Adelaide is ready to become the NRL‘s next expansion franchise thanks to South Australia’s investment in a $45 billion naval shipbuilding project, a planned hydrogen power plant, and its pivotal role in Australia’s space race. Former Manly and Wests Tigers chief executive, Grant Mayer – now CEO of the South Australian Jockey Club, argues that Adelaide has emerged as a “corporate hub” that would attract a significant number of interstate employees, many of whom are NRL supporters. With the influx of new workers from the rugby league-dominated east coast, Adelaide should be a strong consideration when determining the game’s 18th club.
Mayer believes South Australia is building its new-age frigates and submarines under the AUKUS deal, attracting qualified personnel from all over the country to build new technology. Additionally, the state will become home to a hydrogen energy development and the Australian space industry. As a result, there is a great opportunity to expand the sporting offering, providing new workers with a choice that could include rugby league.
Mayer believes that Adelaide’s ‘liveability’ and position on the national footprint aligns it well with the NRL, offering young children the opportunity to play a different sport. The Melbourne Storm is an excellent example of a team that’s built success over time, and Adelaide could follow this blueprint to secure its future. However, this must come with a long-term plan to create an audience, much like the AFL’s GWS Giants.
Providing a purpose-built rectangular stadium capable of hosting rugby league, rugby union, and soccer games is another piece of the puzzle. As Mayer points out, “The government here is very keen to bring new people to the state. With that comes an opportunity to grow and diversify the sporting offering. On top of that, there is a very clear growth agenda from the government regarding tourism.”
Adelaide is a viable contender for the 18th franchise, according to Mayer, whose experiences with Manly and Adelaide United taught him the long-term benefits of sticking with a plan. By capitalising on South Australia’s investment in new technology, new workers, and a focus on growth and diversification, Adelaide could once again become an NRL city.