NRL's 18-team competition proposal requires careful thought

A conference set-up could mean we never see another Broncos-Cowboys epic. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
A conference set-up could mean we never see another Broncos-Cowboys epic. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

I'M A great believer in the phrase "if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. At the same time, I can also see the benefits in being innovative, progressive and not taking continued success for granted. Which is why I'm open to at least fully investigating the idea of a radical change to our competition structure, with a potential move to an 18-team competition and playing the premiership in two conferences.

But just like a lot of people after the concept was floated earlier this week, I'd have to be convinced of the overall benefits - both from a fans' perspective and economically - before weighing them up against the disadvantages of such a change.

There are obviously some big pluses to be had for the Sydney clubs. You'd create more tribalism with regular derby blockbuster games which attract fans - and income - for those clubs involved. But then you've got the downside. There would be a lot more travel for the teams in the outer-Sydney conference, with Newcastle and Canberra hit hardest. Those two clubs would also lose out financially in gate-takings, because they would not be regularly playing against the bigger-drawing Sydney clubs. Who pays for all that given the Sydney clubs won't have to deal with those types of expenses?

The devil with all of this will be in the detail.

For mine, another big negative is the mooted structure of the final series, where you could no longer have two Sydney clubs taking on each other in the grand final. So we'd never see Souths taking on the Roosters or the Dragons or Parramatta up against the Bulldogs in the big one. At the same time, we'd never again see Brisbane and the Cowboys clash in the decider like we did in that epic, golden-point thriller a few years back.

Who is to say one conference won't be stronger than the other? What happens if the best four teams are in the same conference? Is there enough NRL-quality players out there to fill an extra two teams? The devil with all of this will be in the detail. You can sit back and ask all these questions, but at the moment, there are no real answers so it's difficult to make a balanced judgement.

I'm quite sure though officials in Canberra and Newcastle would be sitting there and thinking "hang on just a minute, this is going to be a massive cost to us".

I would think the first thing those clubs in particular will want to see is a business plan explaining how it will all work and how they won't be disadvantaged financially because of it. But like I said at the top, there is absolutely no harm in investigating the proposal and seeing where it takes us and that's what the NRL will do. It's not going to be rushed in. So let's just wait and see what they come up with and go from there.

Toothless tigers

I don't know what the problem is at the Wests Tigers, but I'm pretty certain of one thing - it's not the coach.

Michael Maguire is a premiership-winning coach who the club should have belief in. I certainly believe in him.

I don't know what is going on between the ears of the Tigers players, but it frustrates the hell out of me as just a fan of the game. So I can't imagine what Madge is going through, or Tigers fans.

For the players to perform like they did so courageously against Souths a few weeks ago, and then like they did so dismally against Manly a week later, shows exactly where the problems lie - with those individuals in the team who can't get themselves up to perform on a weekly basis.

Round 8


The Storm have been super impressive, with Jahrome Hughes leading the way last week, and they will just be too strong for the Sharks in this one. Seeing new Sharks centre Will Chambers up against his old club will be interesting. My tip: Storm


What a player David Fifita is, and he'll be in a mood I'm sure for the Titans up against his old club. The Broncos will surely react after another poor performance last week, but I can't see them causing an upset. My tip: Titans


It's hard to believe the difference Tommy Turbo has made to the Eagles, who now suddenly look like a top-eight side. But the way the Panthers are going, I'm not tipping against them. My tip: Panthers


It was great to see the Dogs get off the mark last week with their first win, but I have been super impressed with the Eels and Mitch Moses in particular and they'll just be too strong. My tip: Eels


What a great young talent Sam Walker is, and the side's big win over the Dragons last week is a really good sign for the Roosters going forward. The Knights are too inconsistent for mine. My tip: Roosters


The Cowboys showed some real fight last week against the Raiders to win, but it's a tough trip to Gosford for them travel-wise. I'm leaning towards the Warriors as a result in a tight one. My tip: Warriors


The Dragons will be smarting from the Roosters defeat and the way they simply folded under pressure and I'm expecting a strong reaction with Ben Hunt back to lead the way. My tip: Dragons

This story Big 18-team competition proposal requires careful thought first appeared on The Canberra Times.