Aidan Devine
First published 2 Oct 2023, 2:36pm
The Parramatta Eels have been successful at capitalising on Western Sydney’s strong population growth to attract new fans. Picture: Richard Dobson
The Penrith Panthers may be wowing on the field with their third premiership title in a row but it’s the Eels and Bulldogs that have been winning the most new fans owing to population growth.
Roy Morgan research revealed that the Parramatta Eels are Sydney’s most supported NRL club, while the Bulldogs supporter base is growing the fastest.
Both clubs’ rising popularity can be attributed to multiple factors, but experts revealed rapid housing development in the traditional heartland of each club has played a role.
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These regions are among the most popular for newly arrived migrants due to the larger supply of newly built properties, along with expanding infrastructure and job opportunities.
And it’s this demographic that appears to be boosting the fan base for each team, especially the Parramatta Eels.
The Panthers’ recent success on the field has not translated to as many new fans as other clubs in faster growing areas. Picture: David Swift
The club reported in 2020 that one in five of their supporters were born overseas, with those of Indian origin becoming one of the fastest growing demographics supporting the club.
Census data shows the Greater Parramatta region is one of the most popular areas for Indian-born migrants in the country.
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It is one of the few Sydney regions where significant amounts of new housing supply have been built due to ongoing high-rise apartment development.
Roy Morgan reported the Eels had a 30 per cent rise in the size of its supporter base over the past year, an increase of about 140,000 fans.
It was the second highest growth among all clubs behind the Canterbury Bulldogs at 33.6 per cent.
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The Parramatta Eels remains the club with the NRL’s longest Premiership drought, having not won a Grand Final since 1986.
The South Sydney Rabbitohs were Sydney’s second most supported club, but the supporter base grew by just 3.4 per cent.
The Dragons, Roosters and Panthers rounded out the top five most supported teams in Sydney.
The Melbourne Storm were the most supported club in the country, with a reported 1.19 million fans, according to the Roy Morgan research.
Losing grand finalists the Brisbane Broncos were the second most supported team in the country with 1.15 million fans.
Parramatta is one of Australia’s fastest growing areas.
NRL most supported clubs. Source: Roy Morgan.
Support for the NRL clubs has grown significantly compared to the pre-pandemic period despite the upheavals of the last three years and 14 of the 16 continuing clubs have increased their support compared to 2022.
New club the Dolphins, based in the northern Brisbane suburb of Redcliffe, played their first game in the NRL just over six months ago in March 2023 and already have attracted the support of 232,000 Australians to be the third most popular Queensland club.
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Panthers fans celebrate another premiership win. Picture: David Swift
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