The decision for the Redcliffe-based Dolphins to become the NRL’s newest club is being described as a sad day for Ipswich.
The Dolphins, a powerhouse club in Queensland rugby league, beat rival bids by the Firehawks and the Brisbane Jets to become the code’s 17th franchise in 2023.
It means a second national team based in Brisbane, alongside the Broncos, making a total of four in the NRL competition from Queensland.
While wishing the Dolphins all the best, Brisbane Jets bid boss Steve Johnson says it is a devastating announcement for Ipswich, which is home to one of the biggest demographics of rugby league fans in the state.
Mr Johnson says his team fought extremely hard for the Western Corridor consortium, made up of the Ipswich Jets and Brisbane Bombers, to become the newest club.
“We honestly believe we deserve it.
“We put together a compelling bid; the NRL told has that we had no weaknesses,” Mr Johnson says.
[Ipswich Jets CEO Steven Johnson]
He says the decision to give the licence to Redcliffe over Ipswich is deflating, given the later has faster growing population and more rugby league players.
“Ipswich started the expansion debate back in 2009 through [then NRL CEO] David Gallop, so we have been involved for 12 years.
“We fought our heart and soul for this, and we have done all we could.
“The goal post with the NRL changed recently with the funding model, which made it more difficult for us.”
Mr Johnson says when the ARL confirmed the expansion of the code by introducing the 17th team, the Jets managed to secure $23million of corporate funding in under two weeks.
This shows how much support there is for rugby league in this region, he adds.
But sadly, it hasn’t been enough to get the Western Corridor bid over the line.
🚨BREAKING: The Dolphins are finally into the NRL! The Australian Rugby League Commission has just approved us as the 17th Club in the competition. Click here to be part of our Club: https://t.co/6teifW4tdH #DolphinsNRL pic.twitter.com/ek6HHClg03— Dolphins NRL (@dolphinsnrl) October 12, 2021
"Today is an exciting moment in the history of our game," ALRC chairman Peter V'Landys says.
"The NRL Premiership will expand to 17 teams in 2023 and, on behalf of the Commission, I would like to congratulate The Dolphins on being granted the 17th licence.
"I would also like to acknowledge and thank the other bid teams for the work they put into their submissions.
"All three bids were of the highest calibre and highlight the strength of rugby league in Queensland.”