There are a fair few factors at play really:
> how many clubs is reasonable in the next 5-10 years? Particularly from a talent spread perspective.
I'd say there’s enough talent for 12 teams whilst remaining high quality and not diluting too much. You’d be introducing ~$3mil in extra money towards players. That’d make players happy. Hopefully means a bit of money and marquee spots to try and pull someone like Kay back home.
> What infrastructure is required, what kind of corporate support is required, where are either "local" investors likely to be or where are investors likely to be happy to invest?
Assuming growing costs of owning a club, up to $2mil salary cap potentially for players in that 5-10 year span, I think infrastructure wise they’d be wanting 8-10k stadium size. Try to avoid the prohibitive nature of Illawarra, Cairns and Tasmania stadium sizes.
Very hard to tell where investors are likely to be. One assumes Vic, NSW, NZ, WA are most likely.
> Where are people likely to actually rock-up and support? What kind competition of exists?
Sometimes “build it and people will come” is a thing like Tassie. Sometimes it isn’t, like Gold Coast.
My list of options would be, in order of fav to least fav, two of:
1. Second NZ side
2. Third Vic side
3: Second syd side
4. Second WA side
Second NZ side - Whilst cannibalising an all encompassing Breakers side, it could enhance NBL love in NZ by creating a rivalry. Perhaps split between Auckland and Wellington - TSB Bank Arena is a tad small.
Third Vic side - North west, play at John Cain Arena, change United back to the Tigers. If Geelong has or builds a 4K/4.5k size stadium, perhaps a game or two there as well. Victoria is sporting heartland, and infra is always good in cbd. Population is there for a third team, LK and NBL are heavily Vic based with lots of investment connections.
Second Sydney side - super iffy on this. Sydneysiders are notoriously bad at even going to NRL matches let alone anything else. Maybe attempt West Sydney again? Have Kings play out of ICC in the CBD and West Sydney at Qudos Bank Arena? Wouldn’t want them playing out of the other Olympic park arena - it’s a bit small and pathetic. Maybe paramatta a potential option? No stadia, but if that happened to be built maybe in 10 years time we see that instead of west Sydney?
Second WA side - Wildcats fans naturally hate this and would say “you don’t understand Perth” - but that’s a bit one-eyed. Yes, wildcats build the popularity and fan base no doubt. A second side would 100% piggy back and off the Wildcats success and create that rivalry a bit like the “new age” Port Power that aren’t so much made up of old school SANFL Port fans, but younger fanbase that want a cheaper ticket, able to get to a game and generally be a bit different. WA teams are always well supported and so well financially whether it be the Eagles or the Cats. Even the Dockets etc do well. It’s a sport city like Adelaide - but better.
Fourth on the list of options, but it’s not a dumb option.
I don’t think the NBL should really ever expand past 12 sides - I just don’t think the Australian talent extends that far, and never will. That’s a lot of Australian spots to fill IMO - it’s an entertainment business and a highly competitive environment, there’s always got to be an Aussie connection as part of the NBLs identify, but it shouldn’t be carrying players just because they’re Australian, and the kind of mix they have at the moment between internationals and Australians is about perfect. NBL has done well funnelling money towards getting those top Aussies back home, that’s smart, that’s the Aussie connection.
I’d draw a line through GC, Newcastle, Canberra etc. Population growth isn’t “everything”.