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NRL News: Politis' PNG snub, radical conference shake-up in odd proposal, Sharks switch skippers

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26th February, 2024
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Roosters chair Nick Politis is making a push for Perth to be included ahead of a team representing Papua New Guinea when the NRL expands – and he is adamant the competition should be split into two conferences.

He believes PNG is too unstable to become the 18th team even if the club was based in Cairns and is convinced Perth would be a better option, possibly in a joint venture with the North Sydney Bears, who are looking to attach themselves to a prospective expansion outfit.

Politis is also adding his weight to a switch to a conference system in the NRL which would mean the nine Sydney-based teams, including St George Illawarra would form one division and the rest of the teams in the other one.

In an in-depth interview with the Sydney Morning Herald from Los Angeles where the Roosters are preparing for this weekend’s Las Vegas double-header to open the season, Politis said an 18-team season needs to happen in the next few years.

wanting to come into the competition. I met the Premier myself who said they have a lot of big businessmen ready to back them. I told [ARL Commission chairman Peter] V’landys and [NRL CEO Andrew] Abdo. Now they’re looking at PNG.”
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Under his model, each team would play each other once with the conference rivals clashing a second time to form a 25-round season.

Nick Politis with James Tedesco. (Getty Images)

Nick Politis with James Tedesco. (Getty Images)

“You can’t have an Australian team linked with Papua New Guinea,” Politis said.

“It’s not going to work. PNG is its own country. For me, it makes sense for the [North Sydney] Bears to merge with Perth. That gives you another market for the TV deal and helps us focus on growing the sport across the nation. Eventually we should get to 20 teams, but Papua New Guinea should come after Perth.

“It’s not a draw. Don’t use that word,” he said. “A draw doesn’t exist. We have a TV schedule. V’landys needs to fix it. We get back to playing a proper draw, not all over the place like it is now. That’s fairness.”

Sharks make captaincy change

Hot on the heels of Canterbury dumping Matt Burton and Reed Mahoney for new recruit Stephen Crichton as skipper, Cronulla have raised a few eyebrows by the decision to bypass Nicho Hynes as a captaincy option.

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Dale Finucane will remain as co-captain but with Wade Graham retiring, most observers expected Hynes to be elevated to the role considering he filled in as captain several times over the past two years.

However, coach Craig Fitzgibbon has named experienced forward Cameron McInnes as Finucane’s co-captain for 2024 ahead of the Dally M Medal-winning halfback.

Walters set to sign new deal

Brisbane No.6 Ezra Mam says keeping the current Broncos squad together is a priority to achieve their ultimate goal of winning a premiership and his wish is on the cusp of being granted.

Hooker Billy Walters is set to become the next key player in the Brisbane spine to re-sign after skipper and halfback Adam Reynolds inked a one-year extension on Monday until the end of 2025.

Walters had a breakout season in 2023 at No.9 to help lead the Broncos to the grand final. The off-contract 30-year-old confirmed he was in talks with the club and that a new deal, likely for two years, was imminent.

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“I’m sure it will get done in the next couple of weeks. I am pretty keen to stay,” Walters said. “I know the club is pretty keen to keep me, so there is no rush.

“I am focusing on footy and playing good football and repaying the faith of the club.”

The Walters signing would mean the Broncos’ key starting players in the spine would all be together until at least the end of 2025.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 01: Ezra Mam of the Broncos celebrates with team mates after scoring a try during the 2023 NRL Grand Final match between Penrith Panthers and Brisbane Broncos at Accor Stadium on October 01, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Ezra Mam celebrates with teammates after scoring in the GF. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

Earlier this month the 21-year-old Mam re-signed until the end of 2029. Fullback Reece Walsh is on the books until the end of 2025 but said in an interview in Los Angeles that he intends to get a long-term extension locked away.

Mam was just relieved to get his own deal done and hoped the team stayed together.

“I think having that (contract) finished now it is a big weight off my shoulders,” Mam said. “All of us boys are encouraging (Walsh) to stay and hopefully he does. It is his choice and his life.

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“We are all bonding pretty good here and are close mates so we’d like everyone to stay and take this journey together.

“Footy is a business in itself … but hopefully we can keep the team we have and build on it in the coming years.”

Brisbane have been training at the LA Rams’ base and head to Las Vegas later this week ahead of their clash with the Sydney Roosters.

© AAP

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