Football Australia boss James Johnson admits he was “surprised” when the NRL’s Cronulla Sharks were unveiled as part of a joint bid to enter a new Tier 2 domestic competition.

The NRL club have joined Sutherland Sharks FC as one of 32 homegrown clubs looking to take part in the new competition, which is due to start in 2024 and could one day include promotion to the A-League.

The Sharks were part of the Southern Expansion’s failed attempt to join the A-League, which was overlooked by Macarthur FC, but are now on the verge of entering a potential 10-16 team competition with the NRL club’s financial backing.

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“It was a name that put a smile on my face when I saw it — it actually surprised me,” Johnson said Tuesday.

“I’m pretty excited and I think we should welcome that.

“It’s a region that’s huge in terms of our participation numbers. Rugby league plays in a rectangular ground which is good for us because it creates energy and excitement in a game if you have the right stadium.

Football Australia CEO James Johnson has welcomed Cronulla's offer.  Image: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
Football Australia chief executive James Johnson has welcomed Cronulla’s offer. Image: Quinn Rooney/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

“They obviously have financial backing behind them and have partnered with one of our biggest federations, so I think that’s actually an exciting combination that we’d like to explore. The door is definitely open to them.”

Johnson said racist behavior, including Nazi salutes, by Sydney United 58 fans remains a “relative factor” in their quest for a place in the competition.

The club have been fined and fans banned by FA following his performance in the Australia Cup final last October.

“We wanted to open up this process to as many clubs as possible,” Johnson said.

“The door was never closed for Sydney United and we want to keep that door open.

“Nevertheless, we have some challenges with the club, mainly relating to last year’s Australia Cup final, which we are still working on with this club.

“We need to work through this court case with the club and the club need to understand that some of the behavior we saw at the Australia Cup final will not be welcome in League Two.

Sydney United 58 fans at the Australia Cup final. Image: Cameron Spencer/Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

“Does that disqualify you from this competition now?” No, it doesn’t, but it’s a relevant factor.”

Eight teams from Victoria, ten from NSW and seven from Queensland dominate the list of clubs that have officially expressed interest.

The wording of the second division competition remains a matter of ongoing debate, but the prospect of promotion and relegation to the A division for second division clubs is not likely until it is ‘mature’.

In the next phase of the process, clubs will submit more detailed proposals in hopes of the competition being able to start in 2024.


Australian Capital Territory

Canberra Croatia FC

Gungahlin United FC


APIA Leichhardt FC

Blacktown City FC

Fraser Park FC*

Marconi Stallions FC

Rockdale Ilinden FC

Sutherland Sharks FC/Cronulla Sharks

Sydney Olympic FC

Sydney United 58 FC

Wollongong Wolves FC

Valentine F.C


Brisbane City FC

Brisbane United FC (Wynnum Wolves FC, Brisbane Strikers FC, Virginia United FC)

Gold Coast Knights FC

Gold Coast United FC

Olympic FC

Peninsula Power FC

Sunshine Coast FC fire

South Australia

Adelaide City F.C

Football SA (Campbelltown City SC, North Eastern MetroStars, West Torrens Birkalla SC)

Playford City Soccer and Community Club


South Hobart FC


Avondale F.C

Bentleigh Greens SC

Brunswick Juventus FC

Green Gully SC

Heidelberg United FC

Melbourne Knights FC

Preston Lions F.C

South Melbourne F.C

Western Australia

Spearwood Dalmatinac / Cockburn City SC*

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