Ex-Bunnies boss linked to NRL expansion team
He helped lift South Sydney from rock bottom back to the pride of the league and now Shane Richardson has become the secret weapon in the Brisbane Firehawks' bid to win the NRL expansion race.
As anticipation builds that a new club will be given the green light to enter the national comp in 2023, The Daily Telegraph can reveal that former Rabbitohs boss Richardson has been working behind the scenes for the past four months to help his old club Easts Tigers, who are backing the bid, to put together a highly-detailed business model.
Richardson was reluctant to talk about his involvement when contacted on Monday but insiders claim his experience and expertise will be a key factor when it comes to the NRL judging which bid gets the go-ahead.
Other bid teams include the Brisbane Bombers, Ipswich and Redcliffe Dolphins.
Richardson and his son Brent now run a company called Rich Digital which has been charged with putting together the Firehawks' bid documentation and marketing strategy.
Long regarded as one of rugby league's top administrators, Richardson was instrumental in putting the 2014 competition-winning Bunnies back on the rugby league map to again become a premiership powerhouse on and off the field.
He was also running Penrith when they won the premiership in 2003 under John Lang's coaching and that followed significant success at Cronulla where the Sharks got to the 1997 Super League grand final.
Richardson cut his teeth as a football administrator at Brisbane Easts before coming to Sydney with Lang in the 1990s to take over Cronulla.
Richardson's son Brent spent six years based in the United States working for Google.
With the NRL expected to make a decision on which bid team will get the call up mid-year, Easts Tigers chief Brian Torpy said his team was ready to stake a claim.
"Our bid documentation has been put together so really we are just waiting for (the NRL) to call for submissions," Torpy said.
"If 2023 is the year we will have our infrastructure in place in 2022. And once we get the nod we will go looking to engage senior management including coaching and football operations."
Torpy did not want to reveal which coaches the Firehawks had their eyes on but it's no secret both Wayne Bennett and Craig Bellamy come off contract at the end of this year and would be prime candidates for every bid team.
If the NRL makes its decision on expansion mid-year as has been expected it would give the new coach all of 2022 to work on building a competitive roster.
"We have a shortlist (of coaches) but it is reliant of when you are going to start and who is off contract," Torpy added.
"It is a little bit difficult to say you are going to have this person or this person when you don't know the timing of it.
"But if 2023 is the year then that gives us a little bit more of an indication of who will be available. The timing is OK on a couple of them."
Bellamy has indicated he might have had enough of head coaching and his preference may be to take on a head of football role but Bennett makes no secret that he wants to keep coaching and returning home to Brisbane is his preferred choice.
It is believed Richardson has focused the Firehawks' proposal on building a sustainable club of the future with a focus that will not be restricted to structures that have proved successful in the past.
Originally published as Ex-Bunnies boss linked to NRL expansion team