M’boro to play key part in Brothers’ bid
THEY may be seen as a grassroots club in a small market, but Brothers Maryborough could play a vital part in an audacious bid to turn the famed Brothers Leprechauns into an NRL club.
Justin Barlow, the brains behind the Brothers NRL bid, was a special guest at Brothers Maryborough's clubhouse reopening on Saturday night where he gave an update on where the bid was headed.
While a Brothers NRL club would be based in Brisbane, Barlow said it was Brothers' large reach and unprecedented network to deliver a pathway from juniors to NRL that would allow them compete against the Broncos and other NRL clubs.
"From our research we can't find any team in the world where you can play for the most junior level like under-6s at Maryborough Brothers and effectively we could identify you and bring you all the way through to the most elite level under one brand and one ideology and one philosophy," he said.
"For us it's not just about identifying talent, it's about starting at the most junior level and instilling proper behavioural expectations and what it means to be a good citizen and be a real man."
Although Brothers Maryborough is located 250km from Brisbane, Barlow, who helped build AFL club Gold Coast Suns, said you shouldn't underestimate the important role all Brothers chapters have in building a strong case for inclusion in the NRL.
"They're the most integral part in what we're doing," he said.
"Our strategy is we have to connect to the grassroots and that's for the betterment of rugby league, not just for the betterment of Brothers.
"We need to have the closest relationship that we can with our grassroots because in the end they're the people who support your business and drive your business further.
"For an NRL side, if you replicate what they have in Maryborough Brothers and replicate that around over 40 clubs over 17 cities and three states, you have a viable business and a viable NRL side."
Other cities with Brothers clubs and junior teams include Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville, Ipswich, Bundaberg, Toowoomba and Gladstone.
The NRL is expected to expand the code in the coming years with the ARL Commission expected to narrow the field of expansion contenders in May next year.
Brothers' major threats in south-east Queensland for an NRL licence are the Western Corridor and Brisbane Bombers.
While Suncorp Stadium will host the majority of Brothers' home games, Barlow said they would also play games in regional markets where there was a strong Brothers presence.
"We're not bound by geography, so we aren't just about delivering elite level rugby league and community initiatives to one region, we can deliver it to multiple regions," he said.
"The theory is we would play six to eight of our games at Suncorp Stadium so we've got access to the strong Brisbane fans and corporate market there, but we would take our remaining four to six matches to the regions.
"Therefore we're bringing elite level rugby league, bringing all the promotion that comes with it and creating jobs within those towns.
"And the best thing is it's not just about Brothers, because all the other clubs in those small towns who aren't Brothers people can connect to whatever team we're playing so we can help grow other NRL club's presence in these small regions."
Barlow was joined by about 100 people at the Brothers Maryborough clubhouse reopening and was quite impressed by not only the completed refurbishments 18 months after the 2013 floods, but also the direction the club was heading.
"The number one thing a grassroots club and an elite level club have in common is they can put an emphasis on behavioural standards and club culture and vision and to be honest I don't think I have seen too many clubs that do it better than Maryborough Brothers," he said.
"It's very obvious what they are about and the expectations they put on themselves and that seeps out in everyone you meet.
"That's how they've been able to battle through the tough times and its starting to come through on the field."