'A new rivalry in NZ': NRL boss reveals plans for second Kiwi team

Author
NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Wed, 28 Apr 2021, 3:40PM
Ben Murdoch-Masila of the Warriors celebrates scoring a try against the Storm. (Photo / Photosport)
Ben Murdoch-Masila of the Warriors celebrates scoring a try against the Storm. (Photo / Photosport)

'A new rivalry in NZ': NRL boss reveals plans for second Kiwi team

Author
NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Wed, 28 Apr 2021, 3:40PM

The NRL remain keen on the idea to expand the competition to 18 teams, with the inclusion of a second New Zealand franchise on the agenda.

NRL boss Andrew Abdo revealed plans to grow the competition following a difficult year disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, the NRL announced a $26.6 million loss for 2020.

Speaking to NRL.com, Abdo revealed expansion plans for the competition and why another Kiwi team along with the New Zealand Warriors makes sense.

First on the expansion agenda would be a second Brisbane team, but Abdo said they might not stop there.

"Moving to 17 teams wouldn't be an end point. It gets you closer to 18 teams and obviously 18 teams gives you a few different options," he told NRL.com.

"An 18th team allows you to think about what we might want to do about expanding in New Zealand. Having two teams in New Zealand creates tribalism and a new rivalry in New Zealand."

The leading contenders to become the NRL's 17th team are the Redcliffe Dolphins, who have lodged a Brisbane Dolphins trademark, the Brisbane Jets — a coalition of the Brisbane Bombers and Ipswich Jets — and the Easts Tigers-backed Brisbane Firehawks.

Abdo is also open to the idea of splitting the NRL into two pools much like the NBA which is split into the Western Conference and the Eastern Conference.

"It also gives you options around pools because you can have two pools of nine teams. As you see with some of the big US sports, as you grow your competition and the scale of the number of teams, you can create a dynamic around who plays who and ultimately create more rivalries in regional areas and have competitions within competitions.

"You have to begin with the end in mind, you have to always keep an eye on the long term and you have to think about what is moving you closer to becoming an even more sustainable and relevant and viable sport."

Expansion is among several plans for the NRL to "stabilise, renovate and then grow", Abdo said.

"We have to stay vigilant, we are going to have to get through a very complicated 2021 season, vaccines are still being rolled out and we are not sure what is going to happen with borders so we can't take our eye of the ball.

"But at the same time we are busy laying the foundations for some very exciting long-term initiatives, whether it be how we develop talent, where we play and where our clubs are, or whether it is about the international game.

"You have to develop an ambitious long-term vision and then make sure that as you work through the renovation phase we are setting ourselves up for that."

Among the ideas being considered by the NRL include:

  • Introducing a player transfer window and central contract registration system;
    • Overhauling the Rugby League Accredited Player Agent Scheme;
    • Using technology to improve the game-day experience for fans;
    • Creating a network of boutique stadiums across Sydney;
    • Increasing the number of rounds and teams in the NRLW;
    • Developing the Nines format;
    • Growing participation numbers, and;
    • Expanding the number of NRL teams.