‘Ticks every box’: Why Perth deserves an NRL team

Joel Gould |

Mark Geyer played 33 games for the Western Reds and is an advocate for a Perth-based NRL team.
Mark Geyer played 33 games for the Western Reds and is an advocate for a Perth-based NRL team.

Western Australia is ready for a Perth-based stand-alone NRL team and all that is needed now is clear direction from the game’s hierarchy about establishing it in an expanded competition.

That is the view of Peter Cumins, chairman of a Perth consortium working with the WA government to realise their goal.

Cumins, also deputy chairman of Cash Converters, told AAP that Perth had the corporate backing, facilities and public support to ensure an NRL franchise on the west coast would be a success.

“All we need now is to have some very clear direction from the NRL and be invited to make an application, which we think would be successful, and then we will come along full steam,” Cumins said.

“We do have a very strong group of people, with money, where we would also be in a strong position to fund a successful team.

“I have been involved with this for 15 years, and the reason we haven’t gone into full PR mode is because we can’t afford another false start.”

Cumins was managing director of Cash Converters when the business was the major sponsor of the Western Reds, a side that played in the former ARL and Super League competitions from 1995-97 when the game was in the midst of a civil war.

The NRL is investigating moves towards a possible 20-team competition where Perth, PNG, a second New Zealand team and a reborn North Sydney Bears are among the contenders.

Cumins and his consortium are liaising with a working group, appointed by the WA government, that has held discussions with the NRL and ARL Commission.

“They have had discussions with (ARLC chairman) Peter V’landys and with Newtown and the North Sydney Bears (as possible partners), but my view is that we want a stand-alone Perth-based team and something that West Australians can get behind,” Cumins said. 

“It ticks every box.”

Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett (centre).
Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett (centre) is an advocate for a Perth NRL side. (Darren England/AAP PHOTOS)

Cumins, whose parents came from Hull and were rusted-on league fans, played more than 300 first-grade games for the Fremantle Roosters and represented his state side. No one understands the landscape of rugby league in the west like he does.

“The numbers all stack up because, unlike another team into Sydney, we would be a one-team town,” he said.

“Western Australia now has a population heading towards three million, and is one of the richest states in Australia with gas, gold and iron ore, so there is a lot of corporate money available. 

“We have the rectangular HBF Park, which the government has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in and where Western Force and Perth Glory play, and the best venue for the big games at Optus Stadium. 

Optus Stadium in Perth.
Optus Stadium in Perth has been used to host sports including NRL, AFL, cricket and soccer. (Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS)

“There is a passion for the game here now and the time-slot is right for television and it is a new market so it will bring new eyeballs and sponsorship dollars to the game.

“Perth has very much a membership-based mentality. We don’t have leagues clubs as such. The West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Dockers have significant membership numbers. 

“At the Western Reds we had 14,000 members and 20,000 to our games, but the game has come a long way since then.”

Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett said this week that Perth should have an NRL team and is a vocal supporter, as is Dolphins CEO Terry Reader. 

Last year when the Dolphins played Newcastle in an NRL double-header at Optus Stadium that sold out, Bennett spoke to junior coaches and the consortium’s support people.

“Wayne is very pro-Perth,” Cumins said.

“Mark Geyer, who played with us at the Western Reds, is also a strong advocate for Perth in the media.”

Fans at NRL games in Perth are often seen with retro jerseys from Geyer’s day and with signs that say “Bring back the Reds”.

Greg Marzhew and Dane Gagai of the Knights.
Greg Marzhew and Dane Gagai of the Knights played in front of a sold-out Optus Stadium in 2023. (Richard Wainwright/AAP PHOTOS)

John Sackson, general manager of NRL WA, and Cumins told AAP the overwhelming state government support was crucial in making an NRL team successful.

They said all that is needed now is for the game’s leadership to come on board with something tangible.

“I want the best thing for rugby league in this state, and nothing will accelerate the growth of the game here more than an NRL franchise and putting a stake in the ground,” Sackson said.

“We’ve got to be able to compete, not just exist. It is fertile ground. You don’t get 46,000 turning up for that double-header last year if there is no appetite for rugby league, and State of Origin will sell out again when they bring them here in 2025.

“Registrations are 17 per cent ahead of the same time last year and we will have more than 4000 registered players this year.”

He said Cumins was “a real rugby league man and a wonderful supporter of the grass roots”.

Now he just wants an NRL team to support.

“What needs to be said is that Perth is ready for an NRL franchise” Cumins said. 

“I’d like to see kids in Western Australia get the same opportunity as those on the east coast, and the only way to do that is to have a team we can support and have a pathway for our juniors. 

“There have been a number of Western Australian kids play in the NRL. We have got the capacity to produce kids, but the game stagnates because we can’t compete with these other codes that have got opportunities to get to the top level. 

“Western Australia has done well in whichever sport it has entered teams. We are a sport-loving state. 

“Having an NRL team in a new market like Perth will bring more eyeballs, sponsorship and people to the code. Isn’t that the role of the NRL, to widen the participation and appeal of the game?”