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Can an American-Style Conference System Work For The NRL?

T
he NRL are in talks with clubs after a conference style competition was proposed as part of the league’s expansion.

The League are seeking to add two new teams to the competition as part of the expansion: one from Brisbane and the other from New Zealand.

Fox Sports reports the conference proposal would see the competition split into two groups of nine teams.

The Sydney Conference made up of Roosters, Rabbitohs, Eels, Bulldogs, Tigers, Panthers, Dragons, Sharks and Sea Eagles.

And the Expansion Conference including Broncos, Titans, Cowboys, Storm, Warriors, Knights and Raiders, as well as the new Brisbane based team, and the new New Zealand based team.

Speaking on Fox Sports’ NRL 360,  Australian Rugby League Commission chair, Peter V’Landys, said it’s an idea worth exploring.

“You can’t stand still whatever your product is,” V’Landys said.

“I will consider the fan, I will consider our customer and deliver for the fans,” he said.

“We’ll do nothing that costs the game revenue,” he said.

“Anything we do will increase revenues, but the first priority is to look after the people, the fans, the people that pay to get in each week to support their teams,” V’Landys said.

The new conference format, similar to that of the NFL and NBA in the United States, would increase the number of games, with each team playing those in their conference twice and teams from the other conference once.

The top four teams from each group would then play finals within their conference, with the winning teams from each conference playing each other in the NRL grand final, Fox Sports reports.

South Sydney Rabbitohs coach, Wayne Bennett, said he’s supportive of the conference system.

Speaking with Fox Sports Bennet said, “I think they should play in conferences, I’ve always argued for conferences.”

“(Sydney fans) embrace the national league but they also embrace club rivalry and unless you’re living in Sydney you don’t realise how strong it is,” he said.

“I think Sydney do themselves a great disservice by not playing each other on a regular basis home-and-away because that’s what the fans want in Sydney,” Bennet said.

Rugby League’s greatest rivalry, the State of Origin, is a huge contributor to the NRL’s revenue with the Australian Financial Review reporting it could be worth up to $100m a year.

The NRL’s revenue continues to grow as it announced a surplus of $30.1 million in 2019 of the back of State of Origin’s continued popularity and the success of their most recent competition development, the Magic Round.