What’s the plan, Dave? NRL lags AFL on the Coast

RUGBY LEAGUE: NRL boss David Smith cannot confirm where the Sunshine Coast stands in relation to league expansion at a time when the AFL is breathing down the region's neck.

Smith was at Twin Waters yesterday for a Queensland Rugby League administration conference and spoke at length about the great things he believed the game was doing.

When asked, however, about where the NRL stood on expanding into the Coast, Smith was reluctant to discuss the organisation's position on the region getting a team.

The NRL's position, or lack of one, stands in contrast to the forthright comments last week of AFL Queensland chief executive Michael Conlan, who said the Sunshine Coast could have an AFL team by 2030.

The Sunshine Coast is highly regarded by the AFL, as evidenced by the six teams that have visited the region on training camps over the past two months.

Asked what the NRL was going to do considering the AFL's positive attitude on having a Sunshine Coast-based club, Smith said:

"I've got nothing to say other than we are going to do the work before we make big announcements."

Would you like to see an NRL or AFL team based on the Sunshine Coast?

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The NRL heavyweight was much more comfortable spruiking the recent appointment of Shane Richardson as head of game strategy and development.

"The reason I have hired Shane Richardson is to do three things," Smith said.

"He is looking at expansion and all things expansion, and to get under the skin of what that means.

"He is going to do a blueprint for the grassroots for the next 20, 30, 40 years and he is going to look at the rookie draft and the elite pathways.

"All of those things we are going to work through this year in a smart way to work through all the issues, and then we will be in a position to tell you what the landscape's going to look like."

In contrast, Conlan had no such problems telling the Daily of the AFL's intention to have a club on the Coast in the next 15 years.

"We are very committed to growing our game here on the Sunshine Coast," he said.

"It's very important we work with the local councils to get their development and facility plans - know what commercial plans they're working on to entice corporations to relocate here and grow their businesses - so then we start our planning on where we do set up another AFL club.

"We already have a bit of vision of whether Townsville could be a possible relocation for an AFL club, but if you look at that population, by 2030 Townsville's going to be around 250,000.

"By 2030 we saw some vision that the Sunshine Coast could have a population of 500,000."

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