WELIINGTON, 26 OCTOBER 2015 (SMH) ----A second New Zealand team in the NRL would be known as the South Pacific Cyclones and play up to half their home matches in Fiji.
The consortium backing a Wellington-based team to join the NRL in 2018 has revealed further details of its bid, including the official name of the club and its plans to expand across the Pacific with the inclusion of Fiji.
Consortium spokesman Robert Picone said a large organisation in Fiji was keen to support the Wellington bid, which was now a South Pacific bid.
Picone said the new team would be known as the South Pacific Cyclones and home games would be equally split between Fiji and Wellington.
The latest development is in keeping with the consortium's commitment to help develop the game in New Zealand and the Pacific, as outlined when the bid for a Wellington-based team was launched last November.
With a population of 900,000, Fiji is the biggest of the Pacific nations and has a recently upgraded 19,000-capacity stadium in Suva, which would be suitable for hosting NRL matches.
Support for the NRL is booming in Fiji with emergence of stars such as Parramatta wing sensation Semi Radradra and the success of the Bati in qualifying for the semi-finals at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup in Britain.
"This is a great development for our bid as it satisfies the NRL's plans of expanding into the Pacific Islands as well as New Zealand," Picone said. "It grows our catchment area of support and does not put too much competitive pressure on the Warriors.
"Added to this is the enormous talent pool of players in the Pacific Islands and New Zealand, being largely untapped and therefore not diluting existing talent in the current clubs, particularly in the mid-to-long term".
With expansion back on the agenda as the NRL looks to increase the overall value of the next broadcasting deal, it appears certain a second Brisbane franchise will become the 17th team if the competition were expanded.
Should that occur, Picone said the South Pacific Cyclones were ideally placed to fill the 18th spot and he pointed out that the flying time for Australian-based NRL teams would be similar if they were playing in New Zealand or Fiji.
"We believe our bid is most compelling and provides a win-win for the NRL and all stakeholders," he said. "We will be ready for the 2018 kick off and an 18 team competition."
Representatives of the Wellington Bid Team plan to meet with the NRL to discuss their proposal in further detail.....PACNEWS