Broncos warn against expanding beyond means
It was very much poetic that on Back To The Future day across the globe Broncos CEO Paul White disabled the flux capacitor that would thrust the NRL's Delorean into an expanded future with new teams and an 18-club competition.
While representatives of expansion bids in south-east Queensland had viewed the resignation of NRL CEO Dave Smith on Tuesday as an opportunity to reignite the expansion debate, White urged rugby league stakeholders to "take three deep breaths" and carefully map out the future the game is hurtling towards.
Unveiling the Broncos' new away jersey for 2016 complete with new sponsor National Storage prominently on the back, White said the immediate concern for the game should be to ensure grassroots rugby league is protected and not add additional numbers to a competition where only two clubs are currently profitable.
"As the game gets its head around where it goes in the future we all have to be spokespeople for the grassroots," White said.
"There are football fields in the central west that have no grass and we've all got to understand that our right to sit here and participate and draw an income out of the game is predicated on the support of the people in those areas.
"Every CEO and every administrator and the NRL executive have to understand that that's the message, that we haven't forgotten about them and that they are part of our process.
"We've got to be really direct about that because they need to hear that.
"Fourteen of our current clubs are insolvent without the assistance of the game and licensed club funding, which isn't hard commercial revenues.
"Expansion will happen when the game is ready for it to happen. What's never discussed is whether we're talking about geographical expansion or numerical expansion.
"And if your question is whether we can afford to have two more teams in the competition at the moment then I'm giving you a categoric answer: no."
As one of only very few business models currently turning a profit in the NRL, the Broncos' sound commercial strategy benefited from the team's improved on-field performance in 2015, with the team watched by close to 25 million people on television over the course of the season.
It remains one of the most iconic brands in Australian sport and an opportunity to be associated with the 2015 runners up was one that National Storage managing director Andrew Catsoulis said was too good to let pass.
"Incomparable would be the only word that I would use," Catsoulis said of the strength of the Broncos brand. "Absolutely at the top of the tree but it hasn't been a solely research based decision. What struck us most was the level of family-based values that you see in the Broncos.
"The opportunity to align with somebody like the Broncos is pretty rare and pretty unique and we see it as an opportunity to get into a whole new demographic and that's exciting."