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NRL expansion: Perth Bears, Papua New Guinea set for inclusion

North Sydney Bears to become Perth Bears

The NRL has announced plans to introduce two teams in the future, aiming to expand the league to 20 teams within the next ten years.

Peter V’landys, the chairman of the ARLC, is focusing on bringing in the Perth Bears (currently the North Sydney Bears) and a team from Papua New Guinea as part of this expansion initiative.

V’landys has engaged in talks with Prime Minister Anthony Albanese about a proposed $600 million “diplomacy” package to support Papua New Guinea’s efforts in forming a team to join the NRL.

The league is aiming for PNG to join by the 2028 NRL season, with hopes of seven-time premiership coach Wayne Bennett overseeing the team.

Bennett, who currently coaches the Dolphins and is expected to sign a three-year deal with the Rabbitohs, could potentially become available as a free agent for the 2028 season to guide this addition to the NRL.

The ARL is currently evaluating the PNG franchise and is optimistic about their inclusion in the league in the near future.

The success of the Dolphins franchise has boosted confidence among NRL officials about expanding the rugby league competition, with the North Sydney Bears seen as frontrunners for securing the expansion spot.

Discussions between Perth and North Sydney officials have hinted at a joint venture proposal with hopes that the Bears will play games at North Sydney Oval and some home matches in Perth.

Having last played in Australia’s rugby league division in 1999, there is interest from the NRL to reintroduce the Bears while also introducing a team in Western Australia.

V’landys stated that the Perth Bears would be an addition to the league and that a decision on expansion is aimed to be announced later this year.

He expressed high optimism that the league will eventually have 20 teams and confirmed that Perth is definitely on the radar for expansion, which could happen sooner rather than later.

With nine NRL teams currently in the greater Sydney area, the North Sydney Bears’ inclusion as a standalone team is unlikely, prompting discussions of a joint venture with Perth for expansion.

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