With the Kiwis now consistently challenging the Kangaroos for international domination after winning the 2005 Tri-Nations, 2008 World Cup and 2010 and 2014 Four Nations tournaments, a consortium of Australian and New Zealand investors believe the time is right for a second team to join the NRL.
They also point to the 17.3 per cent of all NRL players (72) who come from New Zealand, the success of the Auckland Nines tourmanet and the Warriors winning three of the last five grand finalis in the under 20s National Youth Competition and being runner up in 2013.
While the four members of the consortium – some of whom have a background in rugby league – want to keep details of their bid under wraps at this stage, it is understood that the new team would be based in Wellington if succesful in gaining entry to the 2018 competition.
However, the team may also play matches in other North Island locations, including Rotorua, and look to build on the development of the game in the Pacific by playing an annual pre-season fixture against an un-named Pacific nation, which is already in discussions with the consortium about the concept.
“The interest in rugby league is at an all-time high in New Zealand due to the great work of the NZRL, the Warriors, the success of the Auckland 9’s and the triumphs of the National team,” consortium spokesman Robert Picone said.
“It is well documented the magnificent contribution New Zealand has made to the NRL including providing nearly 20 per cent of all NRL players. This will only improve with a second New Zealand team and all NRL clubs will benefit by an increase in playing talent”.