Cronk, Thurston back Perth expansion
They may have been in Perth less than 24 hours but two of the game's premier players have expressed their views that the West Australian capital be targeted by the National Rugby League for future expansion in the near future.
Cooper Cronk and Johnathan Thurston will pair up in the Kangaroos halves again on Saturday night in an historic first Test in Perth against New Zealand and wasted little time staking rugby league's claim for a stronger presence in the west.
Ten NRL matches have been played in Perth over the past eight years and with Game Two of the 2019 Origin Series scheduled to be played in Perth for the first time both Cronk and Thurston see the significance of Saturday's Test.
Cronk has played in Perth on three occasions with the Melbourne Storm and said that in addition to knocking off the No.1 ranked Test-playing nation the Kangaroos have a responsibility to lay the platform for future growth of the game in WA.
"Obviously there is talk about expansion into Perth and the powers that be will make those decisions but from a player's perspective, for us to be a truly national game, I think there needs to be expansion," Cronk said.
"It's for us to spread the word, play games like this, an Origin game in a few years' time as well, hopefully getting kids to play the game, inspiring men and women to come and watch and hopefully those numbers grow and grow and we can see a team here in Perth one day."
Having helped to solidify rugby league's place in Melbourne over the past decade with the Storm, Maroons and Kangaroos, Cronk is in an educated position to understand the flow-on effects that come from hosting major representative fixtures in new rugby league markets.
"It's vitally important. Obviously our job is to play well and represent the country but also our responsibility is to spread the rugby league word," said Cronk, who will play his 29th Test for Australia on Saturday.
"I've been down in Melbourne and I've seen the influx of Origin games, international games that have an effect on grassroots, have an effect on crowd numbers and Melbourne Storm has gained the benefits from that."
Playing in Perth is a new experience for Thurston but he also threw his support behind the WA capital playing a more prominent role within the NRL in the years to come.
"We've taken NRL games over here and you can see by the showing at the stadium that the fans are really getting behind rugby league and to be able to bring international footy here is a big bonus," Thurston said.
"Hopefully in the not too distant future we'll see a national NRL team here in Perth."