Canterbury chief executive Todd Greenberg is adamant that South Australia can become rugby league’s next great stronghold, but mention the word expansion and he is quick to point out the state isn’t ready just yet.
Speaking to NRL.com ahead of tomorrow night’s historic clash between the Bulldogs and Melbourne at Adelaide Oval, Greenberg said that Canterbury’s trek south-west for the second year in a row was more than just a simple marketing ploy, with the Bulldogs determined to build a following for both club and code together.
Yet he stopped short of promoting the City of Churches for short-term expansion as the battle heats up for inclusion in the coming years.
“In the short to medium term, I don’t think that will be an utmost priority,” Greenberg revealed.
“I would think that places like Perth and Queensland would be in front of them at the moment so I think it’s really about just getting games here, whether it be with us or some pre-season opportunities.
“At the moment we don’t treat this as anything other than a very significant game for competition points but we do want to turn it into something special over the next few years.”
Tomorrow night’s clash will be the second time an NRL club has travelled abroad this season after South Sydney attracted an impressive 15,371 fans to Perth’s nib Stadium in appalling conditions two weeks ago.
Last year’s Adelaide encounter saw 10,350 turn up to watch the Bulldogs pip Melbourne 20-18 but Greenberg believes that number can grow significantly with an ongoing rugby league presence in the coming years.
Asked why the club had singled out Adelaide as a focus, the Bulldogs boss said: “For a couple of reasons. One is that Adelaide Oval is an iconic venue that didn’t have any rugby league content when we first approached them.
“But the main thing is that there is no doubt South Australia and Adelaide has a very strong rugby league following and there was simply no [top level] rugby league being played here.
“We saw that as an opportunity – and certainly not only for the Bulldogs but the NRL and rugby league in general – to cement a small footprint in another state.
“So it’s not just about us having a presence in Adelaide for this week. We were down here during the pre-season NRL community carnival and David Gallop and I came down a few weeks ago.
“The Adelaide game for us is particularly important as part of our club’s longer-term strategy to grow our fan base and continue to sort of spread our wings through membership and corporate partnerships.
“Last year was a tremendous success here at the Adelaide Oval and we’re hoping we can do it again this year.”
While Greenberg’s focus in the lead-up to tomorrow night’s game has been on promoting and securing the club’s relationship with South Australia, the match has taken on greater significance for the side itself as they look to halt a dramatic slide down the competition table.
Entrenched inside the top four earlier in the year after a tremendous start to the season, the Bulldogs now find themselves in 10th spot after winning just two of their past eight games with coach Kevin Moore coming under mounting pressure to see out his contract.
But Greenberg insisted Moore’s job was safe and said he was confident that the club could turn it around before the end of the year.
“None of us are putting any time frames on anything, we’re not applying any pressure,” he said. “It’s important for us to support the coach so that we can get the next win.
“Having said that, we’re not so naïve as to forget that this is a results-based business and whenever you’re losing football games like we have over the last few months you come under scrutiny. We understand that – that’s fair and it’s reasonable – so the only way to stop it is to work hard for each other which is what we’re planning to do.
“The season basically starts again for us now after Origin. We haven’t played well for a while now and it’s vital that the guys turn up focussed tomorrow night to put in a big performance.
“But we’re very confident internally that we can turn it around. We’re very happy with our roster.
“We’ve made it clear that we’ve under-achieved but we’re only in July, we’re not in September yet. The opportunity is there for us, we’ve just got to make sure we take it.”
Late NRL News:
• Bulldogs hooker Michael Ennis has been ruled out of the Melbourne clash after suffering bleeding on the lung during Wednesday night’s State of Origin decider. Ben Roberts comes into the squad.
• Dumped Parramatta five-eighth Daniel Mortimer could be set for a reprieve should halfback Jeff Robson fail to prove his fitness for tonight’s clash with rivals Wests Tigers. Robson missed last week’s loss to Brisbane with a hamstring injury.
• North Queensland has a number of injury worries with Johnathan Thurston and centre Willie Tonga both ruled out of Monday night’s trip to Newcastle. Thurston injured his knee during the Origin decider while Tonga’s return from a torn bicep has been put on hold for at least another week. Hooker Aaron Payne is also in doubt with Ben Jones and Cory Paterson likely to come into the squad.