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When a 'Super League' was a must - in 1984

Expansion has long been a topic of debate in rugby league circles, and back in 1984 – four years before the birth of the Brisbane Broncos, Gold Coast Giants and Newcastle Knights – Queensland Rugby League chairman Ron McAuliffe discussed his plans to expand the then NSWRFL competition with several new teams.

McAuliffe's plans were for what he described as a "Super League" with 12 clubs from across NSW and Queensland.

Years before the introduction of the Knights, Giants and Broncos, let alone the North Queensland Cowboys, Auckland Warriors, and joint venture clubs St George Illawarra, Northern Eagles and Wests Tigers, McAuliffe predicted the rise of teams outside Sydney and some potential "club amalgamations".

And of course the name "Super League" would become infamous a decade after this story was written.

Titled 'Super League a must', this article was first published in Rugby League Week on October 4, 1984, written by Tony Durkin.

A Super League, involving 12 teams from New South Wales and Queensland, may be introduced during 1988, Australia's bicentennial year.

QRL chairman Ron McAuliffe, who is totally convinced a Super League must be introduced, said the sooner "meaningful discussions" on the subject were held, the better.

Former QRL chairman Ron McAuliffe.
Former QRL chairman Ron McAuliffe. ©Rugby League Week

"From my point of view, the thoughts are preliminary at this stage," he said.

"It has yet to be discussed with the NSW League and the ARL. But it will happen, I've no doubt about that."

When pressed for a probable starting date, McAuliffe immediately ruled out next year and 1986.

"Next year is far too soon, and '86 is a Kangaroo tour year," he said.

Gene Miles played the majority of his career in the Brisbane competition.
Gene Miles played the majority of his career in the Brisbane competition. ©Rugby League Week/NRL Photos

"What about 1988, the bicentennial year? Something like this could be regarded as an innovation by a very progressive sporting organisation like the ARL. And it won't hurt us to have a beacon on the hill at which to aim."

McAuliffe was also noncommittal about the number of teams which would take part in such a competition, but he thought 12 would be an ideal number.

And he suggested two divisions, with a relegation and promotion system.

"But if there are 12, it won't necessarily mean eight from Sydney and four from Brisbane," he said.

"And it won't necessarily be one single club. The way I see it, there is going to be much ground sharing and club sharing in the future.

"In fact, I can foresee club amalgamations in both Brisbane and Sydney."

Ron Gibbs in action for the Gold Coast Seagulls.
Ron Gibbs in action for the Gold Coast Seagulls. ©Rugby League Week

McAuliffe said centres such as Newcastle, Canberra, Wollongong, Tweed Heads and North Queensland could play an extremely important role in the conduct of a Super League.

"Look at the brilliant facilities of Seagulls at Tweed Heads. It would be folly not to utilise them," he said.

The QRL chief says there are a number of factors behind his thoughts on a Super League, none more important than the interest it would create in the code.

"But the inevitability of ground sharing and club sharing, and the introduction of Aussat (national satellite), will only heighten this type of a competition," he said.

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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