New CEO starts for NRL team

Central Queenslanders have more than 75 million reasons to get behind the bid to get an NRL club for the region.

The CQ NRL bid team’s inaugural chief executive officer Denis Keeffe yesterday said having an NRL club in the region would mean a huge economic coup for Central Queensland and bring an annual return of more than $75 million.

Mr Keefe, the former boss of the North Queensland Cowboys, said the biggest hurdle was convincing Central Queenslanders they deserved a team.

“A lot of Central Queenslanders are laid back, not pushy people and humble,” Mr Keeffe said during a media conference to announce his arrival.

“This is a great place to live, work and do commerce.

“Our biggest hurdle is convincing people here that they deserve a team.

“Central Queenslanders deserve to have their own national sporting team in the near future and at the same time, the NRL needs to understand the opportunities available to them in one of the game’s true heartlands, a region of great wealth, significance and appetite for rugby league.”

He said a lot of his early work would be done “in the (CQ) back yard” with any sort of working model unlikely to go to the NRL until 2011.

Securing an NRL club would be a big boost for the region.

“During my time at the Cowboys, many studies were undertaken in relation to the economic benefit to the local community thanks to the presence of a local NRL team,” he said.

“It was widely accepted the Cowboys annually contributed something like $75 million plus in economic benefit to North Queensland.

“I could see that being replicated and then some here in Central Queensland.”

Meanwhile, Mr Keeffe said moves to decentralise the state were also good news for the bid.

CQ NRL Bid chairman Geoff Murphy said Mr Keeffe would provide the traction for the bid to gain further momentum.

“Denis is currently in the process of meeting with key stakeholders in the various communities that make up our very large footprint,” Mr Murphy said.

Keefe told the press conference in Rockhampton yesterday he was going to take the region’s bid to “the next level”.

“I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the bid team, in particular Geoff Murphy and Jason Costigan, our project co-ordinator, for their incredible enthusiasm and commitment to the bid, especially over the past 12 months,” he said.

“Now, the time has come for myself to take it to a new level, a challenge that I’m relishing. The bottom line is that I truly believe in this bid 100 per cent. After all, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t be here in the first place.”

Keeffe’s arrival on the job is the latest step in Rockhampton’s bid for an expansion team in the NRL, which started last April.

Under the proposal the team would have a catchment area stretching from Bundaberg to Rockhampton and, as far west as the Central Highlands.

The team would play a pre-season game each season in Bundaberg and Bundaberg businessman Peter Hamilton would act as the Bundaberg delegate on the club’s board.

The bid team also includes Gladstone Ports Corporation chief executive Leo Zussino, Emerald-based Local Government Association of Queensland chairman Cr Paul Bell and homegrown Origin legends and former internationals Gary Larson and Jason Hetherington.

Other members include Rockhampton businessmen Ron Milne and Wayne Daniels, solicitor and former QRL Central Division official Stan Smith, Mackay businessmen Steve Dowden and Ken Weir.

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