Super Rugby has just expanded to include an Auckland-based Moana Pasifika team. A Fiji team has also been added, with some games reportedly to be played out of Sydney.
One of the great new features of international NRL was the rise of Tonga at the Rugby League World Cup.
The Tonga-Samoa clash was a thing of beauty. It was also authentic.
Crowds of Tongans and Samoans in blue and red.
Did you know the Tonga moniker is Mate Maa’ Tonga, which literally translates to, ‘Die for Tonga’. Just like the State of Origin, that game was genuine.
As the NRL looks to expand, CEO Andrew Abdo is reviewing the numbers behind three bids for a second Brisbane Team for a 2023 entry. The decision is to be made mid-year.
Following this, Abdo reportedly views a second New Zealand team as a likely 18th team.
Abdo is on the track, but perhaps there is another more profitable way to go, one that, like State of Origin, focuses on authenticity and peaks excitement.
By contracting the NRL premiership to wrap up by mid-July, it opens the door for back half of the year excitement featuring a Polynesian NRL World Heavyweight Belt and an Australian rugby league Super Bowl split into two conferences: Maroon and Blue.
Polynesia-Melanesia World heavyweight belt
This division is designed to celebrate Polynesian rugby league.
Here, an authentic New Zealand-Pacific heavyweight division would comprise Polynesian and Kiwi players, with the three major New Zealand cities represented.
It would also expand into the massive United States market. A player draft would be used to pull Polynesian players in from Australian NRL Super Bowl teams.
1. Auckland Warriors: Existing team unchanged. Name changed from New Zealand Warriors back to the Auckland Warriors.
2. Canterbury Bulldogs: Included as there is a name synergy between Canterbury, Australia, and Canterbury, New Zealand. Two games would be played in Canterbury, New Zealand. Blue and white is the opposite of the Crusaders’ red and black.
3. Wellington Orcs (player draft)
4. Mate Ma’a Tonga (player draft)
5. Fiji (player draft)
6. PNG (player draft)
7. US President’s Barbarians (player draft): Three games in Hawaii, Barack Obama as number-one ticket holder.
8. Samoan Rocks (player draft): Dwyane Johnson as number-one ticket holder.
Competition format would be five rounds, followed by a three-week Page-McIntyre top-four finals system. Top two teams play off with the winner advancing to the grand final, and the loser playing in the preliminary final against the winner of third versus fourth.
The winner of the preliminary final advances to the decider.
Australian rugby league Super Bowl
The NRL would build on the authentic Maroon and Blue State of Origin brands and feature two separate competitions.
To achieve a nucleus of teams in Queensland, the 17th and 18th expansion teams would include the Redcliffe Dolphins and Western Jets (Ipswich Jets-Brisbane Bombers, who also play games out of Perth).
To provide playing talent for the Polynesian World heavyweight belt, teams in the Maroon and Blue competitions would be capped a one Polynesian-New Zealander player per team; all other Polynesian players would enter the Polynesian heavyweight belt draft.
To ensure enough playing talent to fill out the Super Bowl competition, the average height of each team must align with the average height of the NSWRL competition as it was in 1991.
Suddenly the player base opens up substantially.
It is history now that Johnathan Thurston nearly never played in the NRL because of his size. Well, there may be a lot more JTs who would suddenly play NRL.
Other rules from the 1990s would also be reintroduced, including interchange: if you go off, you stay off.
Maroon QRL competition
1. Brisbane Broncos
2. North Queensland Cowboys
3. Gold Coast Titans
4. Redcliffe Dolphins expansion team
5. Western Jets expansion team
6. Storm – the ‘Melbourne’ moniker dropped for this tournament. Linked to East Tigers and south side of Brisbane, the Storm to play two games at QSAC (QEII) Stadium.
7. Newcastle Knights
8. Canberra Raiders
Blue NSWRL Competition
At long last, the NSWRL Sydney competition is reborn!
1. Sydney Roosters
2. South Sydney Rabbitohs
3. Parramatta Eels
4. Penrith Panthers
5. St George Illawarra Dragons
6. Manly Sea Eagles
7. Wests Tigers
8. Cronulla Sharks
Both competitions would feature seven home-and-away rounds, followed by the 1973-1994 top five playoff series.
The winner of each competition would then compete in a daytime Australian rugby league Super Bowl that rotates each year between Queensland and New South Wales venues.
So, suddenly representation and opportunity for all, as authentic teams take the field.
There are a lot of winners here.
For the NRL, the big advantage is five major events, not the current two (NRL finals and State of Origin series).
For the players and fans, the opportunity to support their players in a genuine format like State of Origin.
For the NRL and NRL teams, a sudden expansion in the player base.