Bulldogs coach Trent Barrett and rugby league legend Laurie Daley have doubts about the NRL’s plans to employ a two-conference system of Sydney and non-Sydney teams.
Barrett believes the game needs to stop changing things for the sake of it, while Daley had some concerns over the format for the conference system.
“Sometimes I think we tamper with the game too much,” Barrett said on The Big Sports Breakfast.
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“We are always changing rules or we are changing something.
“The game wasn’t too bad before so maybe it is time we leave it alone for a while.”
While Daley said the proposal had some merit he can see a number of holes in the proposal.
“I’m very interested in it and I think it could work, but I need more detail about what happens inside the conference system,” Daley said on The Big Sports Breakfast.
“And Whether there is an opportunity for two teams from the same conference to play in a grand final or whether it is just the one from each conference and they end up playing in the GF.
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“One of the biggest things for me is you might not see the best two teams play in the grand final.
“I don’t mind the conference system, but I still think you need the opportunity if you have got two of the best sides in one conference, they should still have the opportunity to play each other in a grand final.”
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Daley also pointed to the financial disadvantages for sides that are outside the Sydney conference who would have to travel away from home every second weekend.
“I can understand wanting to have more derbies because I think that rivalry is definitely there and people want to see that,” Daley conceded.
“But again it then comes down to cost because if you look at one conference with the Sydney teams they just get to stay at home. Their travel costs are down.
“They don’t have to pay accommodation where as the teams outside of Sydney every second week that is exactly what they will be doing.
“Does the NRL pay for all that or do the clubs have to find that money? So that would put them at a disadvantage straight away financially.”
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Veteran journalist Dean Ritchie echoed Daley’s concerns in expressing his doubts around the viability of introducing two more teams in a conference model.
“I have some queries and question marks around this proposal,” Ritchie said on The Big Sports Breakfast.
“First up is the second New Zealand side that is mooted for 2026, I would have some doubts over given the Warriors have struggled since year dot essentially.
“So whether there is scope for a second side in Wellington I would have my doubts there.
“You could have two extremely dominant sides in one conference that means a top team in the other conference gets a rails run into the grand final.
“It would mean no all-Sydney grand final potentially.
“It would also mean a lot of travel for those clubs outside of Sydney, while the Sydney clubs would have very little travel most weeks.”
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Ritchie understands the financial incentives of introducing another two NRL teams, but questioned whether there is a viable expansion option outside Brisbane.
“I think there is only two options in that we go to New Zealand or we go to Perth,” Ritchie said.
“Perth does have a lot advantages with time zones and television. But I can’t think of another area that would be capable financially of sustaining a rugby league club full-time.
“There is a rugby league following in Auckland, but the more South you go the more hard-core rugby union supporters there are.
“I just wonder if Wellington would have the support for a rugby league team.”
The impact of two more teams on the already thin player stocks is another consideration with the current NRL season already experiencing lopsided results and a glaring gap between the best and worst sides in the league.
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“That is another 60 players in the pool,” Ritchie said of the impact of two new teams on the playing stocks.
“Do we have another 60 players in Australia and New Zealand capable of playing at the elite level? That’s the key question.
“They need to weigh up whether the standard would drop compared to the money they may make in an improved broadcast deal.
“They may think if they can get X amount of money who cares? Having said that if you dilute the competition too much the broadcasters won’t pay the money because they are getting three or four dud games every week. It is a real balancing act.”
Ritchie also questioned why the NRL can’t simply expand without introducing a conference system.
“I don’t know why we need the conference system,” Ritchie said.
“Why can’t we just expand to 18 teams if that’s what they want and just have a normal draw.
“It won’t be a fair draw because every team won’t play each other twice. If there are 18 teams we can’t have a 34 round competition.
“I don’t know why we need the conference system. What is it bringing? What are the advantages and are the advantages outweighing the disadvantages?”
Social media lit up with fans and experts divided over the two-conference proposal.
This from two years ago. I’d written about it several times prior. “The future is a two conference system': Phil Gould reveals his revolutionary plan for NRL posterity https://t.co/k8yqfC9hnZ
Don't the American leagues mainly use this conference system for logistical reasons (to better manage the amount of travel done)? Is this really an issue for the NRL? NBA fans always complain that two Western teams can't meet in the final. Why copy their flawed system?
Conference system would decrease the chances of the best two teams playing in the GF. Only reason for it is to ensure 1 Sydney and 1 Non Sydney team in the Gf.
Look buddy, I’m all for expansion and the Two Conference System can allow for that, I just hope that they lean more towards a Northern & Southern Conference System instead of a Sydney & ,if you will, an “Outsiders” Conference System.
* Making the NRL "Sydney vs The Rest" just makes the game look very insular.
* The GF should be between the NRL's best two teams, not the best team from Conf1 vs best team from Conf2. You severely limit potential GF matchups under the proposed conference system.
It's great to see the @NRL seriously considering introducing a conference system, but the idea of two conferences split between Sydney and non-Sydney teams is not the answer. #NRL
Originally published as‘Time we leave it alone’: Glaring problems with NRL’s two conference proposal — VOTE
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