VITAL BACKING: Ipswich Mayor Teresa Harding. Picture: Cordell Richardson
VITAL BACKING: Ipswich Mayor Teresa Harding. Picture: Cordell Richardson

Major support for region’s NRL bid

AS Western Corridor bid chief Steve Johnson waits for a crucial meeting, the region's NRL team push has received major support.

Johnson is hoping to have a more detailed discussion with ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys after the rugby league boss aired his hopes of adding a 17th NRL team as early as 2020.

The Western Corridor bid covers Ipswich, Toowoomba, Logan and country areas, focused on providing an exciting and sustainable new football market.

After a recent meeting, Johnson was pleased to have the backing of Ipswich City Council, along with state members Jennifer Howard and Jim Madden.

Recently-appointed Ipswich Mayor Teresa Harding said it made perfect sense for the NRL to turn to rugby league heartland in Ipswich and base its 17th team here.

"We have a strong rugby league history and tradition in Ipswich and our community definitely supports an NRL team based in Ipswich,'' Cr Harding said.

"We definitely have the means to make this happen.''

 

Logo for the Western Corridor NRL bid team
Logo for the Western Corridor NRL bid team

Ipswich is one of the country's fastest growing areas with population expected to double from its current 230,000 to more than 500,000 by 2040. That provides a wealth of potential for rugby league growth and to attract news fans.

"An Ipswich-based NRL bid makes sense,'' the mayor said.

"We could have the infrastructure in place, support services and a solid fan base. Something like this could kickstart the economy and set us up for the future."

The mayor met with members of the Western Corridor bid team. They discussed future plans, the path back to the field for Ipswich Jets post-COVID pandemic, and the mayor's strong family ties to the sport.

 

Western Corridor bid chief Steve Johnson
Western Corridor bid chief Steve Johnson

The Western Corridor bid was launched a decade ago, with Jets chairman Steve Johnson at the helm.

The bid is based on a community ownership model, with fans buying shares.

In May last year, council committed $10 million - with conditions - towards redevelopment of North Ipswich Reserve Stadium into a 20,000-seat facility with the clear intent of supporting the entry of local teams to national sporting competitions.

The commitment is subject to equal contributions from the State Government and Federal Government, and other conditions.

"Without the appropriate facilities, both the Greater Ipswich Hyundai A-League expansion bid and the Western Corridor NRL bid team will be unable to enter into the national league competitions," a report to council said.

Council is preparing a business case to help with project development and secure future government funding support.

The stadium redevelopment would cost up to $220 million and could be done in five stages.

A North Ipswich stadium and entertainment precinct was one of the top five projects included in Cr Harding's capital investment vision for 2020 and beyond.

"North Ipswich Reserve Sports and Entertainment Precinct would provide a vital piece of community infrastructure and a focal point for the sporting community, provide ongoing opportunity to attract and secure high profile events, and would stimulate investment that would promote economic growth, employment opportunities and secure critical transport infrastructure for the region," she said.

The North Ipswich Reserve Sports and Entertainment Precinct and the Brisbane Lions' facility currently under construction at Springfield Central also align with planning of major venues for a potential SEQ 2032 Olympic Games bid. Ipswich has given its backing to the Olympics idea.

"We need to get on with the job of building, creating investment opportunities and preparing for a very prosperous future for Ipswich," Cr Harding said. "And we need to be investigating all avenues to create direct and indirect jobs to ensure our local workforce has the greatest opportunity to be productive.

"New jobs will be crucial to expediting economic recovery and a boost in infrastructure investment will go a long way to enabling that.

"We have produced league icons such as Allan Langer and the Walters brothers. A NRL team based here in Ipswich is the perfect opportunity to continue the city's league legacy and produce a new generation of superstars."