New York bid ramps up with Shaun Johnson in sights
More than 30 elite coaches have approached the New York City Rugby league bid team as founder Ricky Wilby ramps up plans to play in the English Super League in 2020.
NRL.com was contacted by a multiple premiership winner, and a former NRL coach, asking to be put in touch with Wilby after an initial story on the bid on this website late last year.
That meeting has since occurred and the potential coach is firmly in the frame should the bid get the green light from the Rugby Football League (RLF) in the coming months.
Former NRL stars and current Ipswich Jets co-coaches Ben and Shane Walker have also had a preliminary interview with Wilby.
"We've had a lot of big name coaches approach us and it has been an overwhelming response," Wilby told NRL.com.
"We've had well over 30 coaches get in touch, which range from Queensland Cup and former NRL coaches to former Super League and Championship coaches.
"There have been a number of stand out candidates and once we receive entry to the RFL that will be one of the positions we look to appoint first."
Last year NRL stars Josh Morris, Paul Gallen and Sam Burgess all expressed an interest publicly in playing in New York.
New Zealand Warriors half Shaun Johnson recently sent a video message of support to New York, wishing the bid team all the best.
Johnson is contracted at the Warriors until the end of 2019 and his manager Peter Brown said it was no surprise that his client had supported the New York bid.
"Shaun thinks outside the square and is engaged in what is happening around the world and he would be genuine about it," Brown told NRL.com.
"Shaun does not one to box himself in and likes to explore things. He loves the fact that there are opportunities out there."
Wilby said New York, with $52 million in funding over three years promised by investors, would enter the Super League or Championship in whatever tier the clubs and RFL determined.
He said he had been inundated by approaches from players and their agents from the NRL, Super League and Championship.
"Our head coach will be a key appointment and after that we can sit down and discuss which players we would like to sign," Wilby said.
In January the bid team had a visit from Nigel Wood, when he was CEO of the Rugby Football League, and received some positive feedback along with areas to address.
"Since that visit we've had some good conversations with James Fife ,the Mayor of Harrison, to free up land to build our own training facility," Wilby said.
Harrison is a suburb of New Jersey and the team hopes to play its games there, a short journey from Manhattan.
"The New York Red Bulls, New York Giants and New York Jets all play in New Jersey so it is not a big issue," Wilby said.
"The New York soccer team plays at Yankee Stadium but it is too short for a rugby league field."
The bid team is hoping for the green light in the next three or four months so they can get moving on infrastructure, grass roots programs, work visas and recruiting.
"If we have a 'yes' by the RFL by July we can start put everything in place," Wilby said. "Then we can identify a coach and players, and start talking to agents."