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It’s the marriage we didn’t expect.
One’s a marketing venture boasting big sponsors but missing a passionate history. The other’s a community approach tapping into a growing population area but without a tangible identity. Both have been jostling for the right to call themselves Queensland’s fourth NRL team for over ten years now.
But the new Brisbane Jets bid for NRL expansion, formed by a merger of the Brisbane Bombers and Western Corridor consortiums, looks a strong contender to claim that elusive prize, potentially rivaling the Redcliffe Dolphins and leaving the Firehawks in the dust.
The surprise joint bid came in the same week the NRL confirmed it would decide on expanding its competition to include a second Brisbane team by June this year.
Until last week, the Western Corridor and Bombers bids were stragglers in the four-horse expansion race, lagging well behind Easts Tigers’ Firehawks brand and the powerful $100 million bid brought forward by the Redcliffe Dolphins.
The Western Corridor bid was pushed by Queensland Cup side the Ipswich Jets, aiming to bring in everywhere between Logan and Ipswich, and even Toowoomba. The region boasts some of Australia’s largest player numbers and a fast growing population, and the bid was also riding on a boutique stadium that the Ipswich City Council hopes to have built on the North Ipswich Reserve, the Jets’ current home ground.
The bid’s main problem was that it hadn’t done much other than say where they wanted to put themselves and that they were interested in having an Indigenous name. No website, no social media profiles, and next to no promotion of the bid. Otherwise, they would have made a hell of a front runner on their own.
Then there was the Bombers, an entirely manufactured entity with no connection to an existing rugby league club. They’d done more for their chances than their rivals, with a functioning website and blog (even if they haven’t yet learnt to remove that WordPress logo from it) and a good list of supporters including Brisbane Airport and the Nine Network.
(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
However, the brand hasn’t caught on in the ten years it’s existed. The corporate nature of the bid failed to connect with the ‘anyone but the Broncos’ base it targeted, and all the name achieved was the risk of trademark issues with the AFL’s more famous Bombers.
This merger is the best possible result for both the consortiums. It’s taken two opposing ideas on what BNE2 will be and turned them into complementary weapons in its arsenal. The community reach and private support make this a potent option for the NRL.
And the new identity is the cherry on top, uniting the consortiums with a common aviation theme and the nickname with a direct connection to an existing rugby league club.
And there won’t be the same trademark issues that the Bombers’ name had. Newtown already gave their blessing via Twitter.
Altogether they are compelling foundations for a new side, but they must overcome another hurdle if they want to build a successful, staying rugby league club.
As populous as the Brisbane Jets’ targeted fan-base is (more than 200,000 live in the Ipswich council area alone), it’s spread across a large area on Brisbane’s south-eastern outskirts and not seriously united by a name or identity the same way the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast conglomerates are.
They may also not necessarily connect with the Jets calling themselves Brisbane, so the team will need to lean their marketing more on the moniker.
Where they play also can’t be taken lightly. While Suncorp Stadium would be the preferred home ground according to both the Jets and the NRL, they should also be prepared to play out of the eventual North Ipswich Stadium as the council is still intent on building that. Even if they take smaller games to Ipswich, that will be vital to building a local fan connection.
But if they market themselves right, they need not worry. The Brisbane Jets may just become a shoo-in for BNE2.