RUGBY league's governing body must looks after the juniors in the Western Corridor NRL bid catchment area or risk losing them to the game.
That is the view of Western Corridor bid chairman Steve Johnson after the Australian Rugby League Commission said this week it would not revisit expansion until 2014, with a view to possibly welcoming extra teams into the NRL in 2017.
But Mr Johnson said direction on expansion should "ideally happen before that" and has warned of the threat posed by rival codes.
"There are questions over whether the game can afford to expand and whether it needs to do it, but you can't expect all the juniors that we have got in the Western Corridor to remain in our game if there is no direct pathway up to the NRL," Mr Johnson said.
"It seems that the southern clubs are recruitment clubs rather than development clubs. We need to be given that NRL licence to look after the kids under our brand or the game needs to create adequate funding and resources to look after those kids. We just need our kids being looked after and at the moment that is not happening.
"The AFL is very strategic and has already looked to place the Lions at Springfield. That would open up our heartland to them.
"If Victorian families relocate here they are going to have that affection for the game and the kids will start playing it. I can understand that it can take time as a commission to get an understanding of the game and where they want to take it, but if there is to be some expansion there needs to be some direction on where it is going to happen so people don't waste their resources, energy and passion on bids that are going nowhere."
The Western Corridor bid will not be sidelined by the delay in expansion.
"We believe our [junior] numbers will be even more compelling in five years time. It will just make our case bigger and stronger," he said.
Update your news preferences and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.