The NRL has reportedly floated a proposal to split the competition into two conferences – not unlike models seen in America.
The NRL has reportedly floated a plan to split the competition into two conferences – not unlike models seen in American sports – which would see new teams added in Brisbane and New Zealand.
The Sydney Morning Herald’s Michael Chammas reports, the bold pitch is part of the game’s expansion plans, with the issue of maximising TV broadcast revenue believed to be at the centre of the move.
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo and chairman Peter V’landys have reportedly met with several clubs over the past fortnight to outline the long-term vision for the game.
Abdo is believed to be the driving force behind the move that would see the competition expand from 16 to 18 teams, allowing the NRL to set up a two conference system, much like the NBA.
One of the most respected figures in the game, Wayne Bennett, says the plan has his backing.
“It’s a great sale point,” Bennett told The Sydney Morning Herald. “America does it in the Super Bowl. The biggest drawing final games we’ve had are when there are two Sydney teams. I went through it with the Dragons when we played the Tigers in the prelim. There was over 60 or 70,000 people there.
“The reality is the biggest crowds at finals times is when local teams play each other. They don’t get crowds when you get Brisbane or Melbourne against a Sydney team.”
One of the conferences would be built on the intense local Sydney rivalries – placing the Roosters, Rabbitohs, Eels, Bulldogs, Tigers, Panthers, Dragons, Sharks and Sea Eagles into one Sydney conference.
The other conference would include the Broncos, Titans, Cowboys, Storm, Warriors, Knights, Raiders and new teams in Brisbane, which are expected to be added into the competition in 2023, and a second team in New Zealand in the following years.