Reds-letter day looms for WA NRL bid

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Reds-letter day looms for WA NRL bid

Post by Redszone on Sun Apr 24, 2011 5:59 pm



LEAGUE AMBITION: WA Rugby League chairman David Hobbs is urging all West Australians to get behind the bid for a WA NRL side. Picture: Stewart Allen Source: PerthNow


DAVID Hobbs has a message for the NRL hierarchy: the sleeping giant is stirring.

The giant he is referring to is WA's passionate and substantial rugby league supporter base, which is preparing to wake from 15 years of hibernation to once again have a club to call its own on the national stage.

With the NRL expected to announce in the coming months plans of a two-team expansion to the current 16-side competition, Hobbs is at the forefront of the WA Reds' bid to convince the league to venture west.

As chairman of the WA Rugby League and an avid supporter of the game at grassroots level, Hobbs, pictured left, says there is a strong local backing for a successful franchise to grow out of Perth from 2013.

"It's very much a sleeping giant," he said. "We believe there are so many people out there who are just wanting rugby league in this state, (and) these people are being starved of a product, which is crazy.


"They're definitely out there it's a matter of us giving them a reason and giving them an opportunity to get involved."
Hobbs is quick to point out a lack of local interest was never the reason the Reds folded after a brief stint in the national competition between 1995 and 1997.
Back then, he points out, the club attracted crowds of more than 17,000 people at the WACA a venue hardly ideal for spectators to watch rugby league.

Instead, it was the fallout from the Super League war and the doomed agreement that the WA side would pay for the flights and accommodation of visiting teams that led to the Reds' downfall.

"We had some real momentum back then, and what the people of WA have got to remember is that the Western Reds never failed they were a victim of political warfare," Hobbs said.

"Since then, we've had nearly 350,000 Queenslanders and New South Welshmen and people from Canberra relocate to WA. We've also had a massive influx of people from the UK, South Africa, and New Zealand.

"We're the resource capital of Australia and these people are coming to the state, they want rugby league, and our state is growing. It's a perfect demographic to have a new team to launch."

The anticipated strong local support was one of the key points raised by Hobbs and fellow WARL executives John Sackson and Bruce Havilah in a 90-minute meeting with NRL boss David Gallop earlier this month.

The WARL contingent boasted the Reds had secured a near $2million deal with a major sponsor, had received State Government backing, would not dilute support or sponsorship dollars from existing clubs, and would provide an opportunity for the league to tackle its rival code, AFL.

"It's not a truly national competition until WA is part of it," Hobbs said. "The AFL has been very aggressive in expansion. If the NRL is going to be serious about running up against the AFL, it needs to expand the code."

As the WA chief executive of The Professionals real estate group, and having served seven years as the Fremantle Dockers' inaugural marketing manager, Hobbs is no stranger to business success.
If the Reds are given the go-ahead for an NRL licence, one of the first things Hobbs will do is examine the set-up of a number of recently created WA sporting clubs.

"I think (having experience with the Dockers) is very important, because after all, sport is business," he said. "One of the main things is if you don't have a good culture, you don't have a business or you don't have a sporting body.
"With Freo, though we never won many games in our first seven years, the fact is that members were loyal and they knew down the track that their loyalty would be rewarded, and we're seeing that now."

But for all his business expertise, Hobbs cannot hide his childlike enthusiasm.
"The board members and I we're like kids in a lolly shop. As soon as we came out of that meeting with David Gallop, we're on the phone like excited kids talking to the rest of the board members," he said.

Hobbs described the meeting as "extremely positive".
"If it was a business decision, I'm more than confident that WA would be the first cab off the rank," he said.
Praising the 15,000-plus crowds that have attended Nib Stadium to watch each of the Perth-staged NRL matches over the past few seasons, Hobbs said he expected an even bigger turnout for this year’s game.

The June 24 clash sees the Russell Crowe-owned South Sydney Rabbitohs take on the Brisbane Broncos in what will be one of the last ever games for retiring NRL legend Darren Lockyer.

And while the match will signal the Perth farewell of one of the game’s giants, Hobbs is hoping it will also confirm the awakening of another – the state’s yearning rugby league community.

“We want everyone who’s passionate about rugby league in this state to get along and show just how much support we have,” he said.

“We’re urging the public to get involved, jump on this very exciting journey together, and help create a team for Western Australia.”

*Tickets for the Rabbitohs / Broncos clash go on sale May 10 through Ticketmaster.

http://www.perthnow.com.au/sport/nrl/reds-letter-day-looms-for-wa-nrl-bid/story-fn7shzfu-1226043877504

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