Bennett throws support behind WA Reds - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Bennett throws support behind WA Reds

By Justin Chadwick 13/02/2009 08:42:16 PM Comments (0)

Six-time premiership-winning coach Wayne Bennett has thrown his support behind a WA-based team to be granted entry into the NRL by 2012.

Bennett, who will take the helm of St George Illawarra for the first time on Saturday night when his side take on the Sydney Roosters in a trial match in Perth, said a WA-based team would strengthen the competition.

The NRL have taken a cautious approach to the idea after the Perth Reds were disbanded in 1997 after a short and unsuccessful stay in the national competition.

The Western Australian Rugby League has been working hard since 2000 to formulate a re-entry plan and in 2006 the Perth Reds were revived and re-branded as the WA Reds.

The Reds currently compete in the Jim Beam Cup and will move up to the NSW Cup in 2010, with a view of breaking into the NRL in 2012.

"I came over here in the Super League years (as coach of Brisbane) and we played here in '96 and '97 and I thought it was a wonderful concept at the time and I still do today," Bennett said in Perth on Friday.

"I hope that the League, when they re-address the issue of expansion, which I think they will when the new TV contracts are re-done in 2012, will certainly look favourably upon us having a team in this part of the world.

"They (the Reds) have got an opportunity to prove to the NRL that they're going to be viable, and that's what they are doing and that's why we are here today.

"They've got a strong, viable competition here, they've got a wonderful facility here (in Members Equity Stadium) and that's only going to get better."

Roosters captain Braith Anasta said players throughout the league would support an expansion into WA.

"There's no doubt the players think that if the game's going to grow as a whole you've got to get the whole country involved and WA's a big part of that," Anasta said.

WARL chairman Geoff Baldwin said he had held "positive" talks with NRL chief executive David Gallop three months ago about the inclusion of the WA Reds into the NRL.

"The NRL and the ARL have now recognised our mission and they can see there's a viable opportunity to expand the game in Western Australia knowing they've got good infrastructure here," Baldwin said.

"The talks at this stage are preliminary but certainly, where the door was closed a few years ago, it's certainly ajar now."

Along with the pre-season trial match between the Roosters and Dragons, Perth will host the round 14 clash between South Sydney and Melbourne Storm.

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