New Zealand could have a second National Rugby League team as soon as 2026, with a South Island expansion plan quickly picking up pace behind the scenes—and three bidders are already in the mix.

Two South Island bidders have already gone public, including the Kea organisation and a Frank Endacott-backed group. A third, more private consortium of businessmen has also reached out to the NRL with a cash-rich proposal.

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While a second cross-Tasman team has long been shot down by prior rugby league powerbrokers, ARL Commission boss Peter V’landys is strongly considering the growth.

It’s the Kea-branded group that has the public lead, with the forward hopefuls already unveiling a rivalry video taking aim at the New Zealand Warriors as their biggest challengers. “We’ve been in contact with the NRL and we’re just waiting for them to announce what the pathway looks like,” Ex-NRL boss David Moffett, who is leading the Kea bid, told News Corp.

“We can add or change anything they might want once we get a look at the big document. If the NRL were to accept a team in 2026, we’d be ready because of the quality we’ve got involved and the work we are doing already behind the scenes.

“We are fully aware other NRL clubs see additions as a threat to their funding and player drain. We are right in the middle of the area where a lot of the Sydney clubs get their talent. We’re focused on keeping as much of our talent here and especially in the Christchurch area so you don’t have to… head to Australia without their families.”

The biggest reason for the seemingly quick greenlight from V’landys and the NRL is how quickly the Warriors have surged back to popularity after COVID-19 had them stuck in Australia for much of the shutdown-impacted seasons.

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Since returning to New Zealand play, the Warriors have sold out Auckland’s 25,000-seater Go Media Stadium several times and continue to go from strength to strength with its fanbase.

The post South Island NRL expansion gathers steam for ’26, three bids in already first appeared on The Sporting Base.

The post South Island NRL expansion gathers steam for ’26, three bids in already appeared first on The Sporting Base.