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NRL coaches poll pushes rival expansion bid over PNG, overhaul of player transfer system and crackdown on agents

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1st February, 2024
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The coaches want the NRL to head west instead of into Papua New Guinea when the next expansion team is introduced in the next few years.

According to the annual NewsCorp coaches poll, half of the current NRL coaches would prefer to see a new franchise in Perth rather than PNG, which is the frontrunner to get the green light with the Australian Government set to bankroll the bid.

Following on from the success of the Dolphins in getting off the ground last year, the NRL is looking to become an 18-team competition as early as 2026. 

From the NRL coaches and assistants who participated in the poll, New Zealand was the second most-popular option with 23% of the vote, PNG getting 10%, a Pacific-based team 7% with another 7% saying the premiership should remain at 17 sides.

The coaches were split on the biggest issue of the game but not surprisingly, the problem with player managers (23%) was the biggest votegetter.

For several years the NRL has been trying to limit the influence of player managers with the unscrupulous bunch often having significant sway over rosters at clubs where they have several clients. 

A related issue of the player transfer system was next at 20% alongside concussions with officiating and junior participation at 13%.

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Concussions were viewed as the biggest threat to the sport by 40% of the coaches, ahead of the grassroots threat from rival codes (30%) and the constant changing of NRL rules (17%).

Despite the risk of concussion lawsuits, 83% of the coaches think the NRL should not follow the Super League path and make all tackles beneath the shoulders.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 12: Kalyn Ponga of the Knights leaves the field for an HIA during the round two NRL match between Wests Tigers and Newcastle Knights at Leichhardt Oval on March 12, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Kalyn Ponga has had several concussions. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

A trade window received the thumbs-up with 37% in favour of one at the end of the season and 33% midway through the year. Only 30% thought it should not be introduced.

Amid reports that Roosters star Joey Manu could sign a lucrative deal in Japanese rugby before returning to the NRL, the coaches pleaded for head office to ban exemptions for players under contract being allowed to get exemptions to play elsewhere with 77% voting against.

The coaches are adamant junior competitions should play for competition points and have finals matches with an overwhelming 93% in favour of the traditional set-up.

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