NRL eyes Gold Coast

THE Gold Coast could today have a team in the National Rugby League competition.

With the Gold Coast to play host to the Bulldogs versus Cowboys showdown tonight, the NRL partnership committee will meet this morning to discuss the proposal to increase the number of teams playing in the 2007 premiership.

If a 16th team is approved the Gold Coast bid, which already has sponsors lined up, a coach signed, a playing venue and an academy for developing players, is favoured to get the nod.

But while Gold Coast bid chairman Michael Searle has the champagne on ice, he does not want to put the horse before the cart by being over-confident.

"It's like being called the winner of a horse race 200 metres from finish, you don't want to hear that," Searle said yesterday.

"We're not pre-empting anything. We can't get ourselves too worked up, that's not good for anyone.

"I don't have a gut feeling but I am excited.

"It would be so exciting for the city.

"A lot of hard work has been gone in the last eight months to get to this phase but there is still so many things that could go wrong."

An increase in teams is not at the top of the agenda for today's meeting, that belongs to negotiations for free-to-air rights to rugby league which current broadcaster Channel Nine has valued at about $40 million.

But expansion is a big issue for rugby league which has finally re-established itself following the damaging fallout from Super League in the mid 1990s.

The Central Coast and Wellington have submitted bids to be the NRL's 16th team but it's no secret the Gold Coast is a warm favourite.

Home of the Chargers until 1998, the Gold Coast has been without a national sporting team for several years after having sides in AFL, basketball and baseball leagues at various times.

Carrara Stadium, a possible home venue should the Gold Coast consortium get the nod today, will host an NRL sellout tonight between the defending premiers the Bulldogs and North Queensland.

The tip is a post-match function night will turn into a big celebration party if the verdict comes down in Gold Coast's favour.

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