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Another NRL season has come and gone and nothing has really changed.
It won’t be long until the 2019 season rolls around and we will see the same sixteen teams run around for twenty-five rounds and the same old headlines. It just feels like more of the same.
Sure we have had five different premiers in the last five years and that does speak for the closeness of the competition at the top end of the table. The bottom half of the table tells a different story however.
In the same five years, excluding Cronulla and their supplement scandal, Parramatta and Newcastle have shared wooden spoon duties.
The NRL is a top-heavy organisation and, under its current leadership, I can’t see the game growing. In fact it I believe it’s stalling.
I am only referring to the NRL competition itself and recognise the work done in creating the NRLW and all that has done for the women’s game but the premiership is the NRL’s big ticket item.
We have all heard the arguments for and against expansion but talk is cheap and it is now time for the NRL to take a risk. Time to break the wheel. Expansion doesn’t work and relocation isn’t the answer.
The result is always the same, you end up with a team in a town that either doesn’t represent the community or a multitude of other issues.
The Gold Coast is a prime example of this. Looking at the map, the region looks ripe for the picking for any potential expansion bid. Population just over 500000 and decent junior rugby league grassroots by today’s standards if you include down the Tweed Coast and out past the Hinterland.
The thousands of people who have relocated to the Gold Coast from other parts of the country have brought too much with them. Their codes and more importantly their own teams.
The Titans are basically playing second fiddle in their own town and that was before the AFL brought in the Suns. It’s a losing battle.
This writer is more inclined to see the game in Australia take a page from its counterparts in the northern hemisphere. I’d like to see a conversation change from expansion to promotion and relegation.
Just picture what the amalgamation of the QLD and NSW Cups to create a second division would look like. They already share naming rights with Intrust Super, so something like the Intrust Championship certainly has a good ring to it.
Rather than throwing vast amounts of NRL money at two new expansion teams in Adelaide and Perth, or uprooting an established club, which will ultimately only end in tears, why not create a battleground for already existing teams? These teams come with history, culture and more importantly long-standing ties within their respective communities.
It does not make any sense to waste all that money and resources in planting two new teams in two new locations just to create an extra game each round.
By creating the Championship, not only are you letting the best of the rest rise to the top, but it also allows them to prove that they an organisation worthy of being in the most elite domestic competition rugby league has to offer. You are creating more pathways for aspiring junior players with more media coverage to go with it.
You have Central QLD screaming for it, Ipswich as well. Newtown has done some great things over the last few years yet it seems to all go unnoticed by Todd Greenberg and the NRL.
Let these clubs battle it out in the Championship for the right to gain entry to the NRL.
The State Championship game on grand final day is a good concept but it lacks inspiration in anything outside of just holding bragging rights between the two Intrust competitions.
If we were to use the 2018 season as an example, Redcliffe Dolphins would have played the Newtown Jets to replace the struggling Parramatta in the NRL (the Canterbury Bulldogs are represented in the NRL and obviously would not be in both competitions).
Australia could potentially have it’s own version of the ‘Million Pound Game’.
The stories waiting to be told by creating the Championship are limitless.
Newtown returns to the NRL Premiership after 36 years in exile or Brisbane finally get their second team as the Dolphins go around as the new kids on the block.
Just imagine, if it was North Sydney Bears finishing runners-up and going on to play Many Sea Eagles for the remaining spot in the NRL. You can’t tell me Lottoland or North Sydney Oval would not be packed to the rafters.
The current broadcast deal ends in 2022 and this is the sort of conversation that needs to replace the outdated expansion/relocation debates.
Unfortunately, I can’t see it ever happening as the NRL and CEO’s of the respective clubs would never allow their monopoly of the Australian game to ever be shaken.
It is what the game needs, it’s what the fans deserve.
Inclusiveness is all good, if you’ve got the money to pay for it.