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Illawarra Mercury

NRL predicts more teams to seek $4m merger bonus

Date: 29/09/1998
Words: 269
          Publication: Illawarra Mercury
Section: Sport
Page: 44
National Rugby League officials yesterday confidently predicted further mergers before next season as the push for a second Brisbane side intensified in the wake of the Broncos' latest premiership triumph.

With the St George-Illawarra Dragons joint venture confirmed last week, a surge of activity from other Sydney clubs is expected ahead of the October 31 deadline for the NRL's $4million financial incentive.

Although no contact has yet been made, Canterbury is widely tipped to re-start negotiations with Western Suburbs now that the season is officially over following Sunday's grand final, won 38-12 by Brisbane over the Bulldogs.

But the Broncos' record-equalling grand final scoreline has widened the focus of the NRL's future plans to Brisbane, where they have a monopoly on the game's second biggest market.

As fans and players continued celebrations yesterday, the club's domination was further highlighted by the selection of nine Brisbane players in the Australian team to play New Zealand on October 9.

Having won the 1997 Super League premiership and World Club Challenge, the Broncos provided the bulk of talent for Queensland's State of Origin series victory and yesterday stamped themselves as the team of the decade.

En route to their third united title since 1992, the Broncos also demolished Melbourne 30-6 and Sydney City 46-18 in back-to-back finals matches and beat every team during the year.

While all non-Sydney clubs have exclusivity rights to their areas, Brisbane Easts have been trying to entice Gold Coast to Suncorp Stadium - which could soon host two sides if redevelopment plans to increase capacity to 53,000 proceeds.

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