Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
With the introduction of the Dolphins as the NRL’s 17th franchise to take the field in 2023, talks have already begun about the competition expanding to 18 teams.
NRL Chief Executive Officer Andrew Abdo has been vocal about the possibility of introducing an 18th franchise when speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald.
“Equally we will have consideration to eventually moving from 17 to 18,” said Abdo.
“I don’t know what that timeline looks like.
“That will be a factor of the success of the 17th team and a factor of which market is right, and whether the economics stack up.
“But 17 is a natural stepping stone to 18.
“At 18 we have another fixture and that provides another opportunity for our fans, another 80 minutes of footy, another match in the round, another opportunity to grow fans in another market.”
Former premiership winner Matthew Johns has since given a left-field suggestion for where the NRL’s 18th franchise should be located.
Putting forth the option of a Pacific Nations team when talking on SEN 1170.
“They’re talking about an 18th team,” Johns said.
“Obviously, they can’t rush into it, but you can’t stay at 17 teams, 18 is the number.
“I think in some way, shape or form it (the 18th team) should be a Pacific nation side.
“It allows you to shore up that crucial area, it’s one of the heartlands of the game now as far as recruitment is concerned.
“The nation that has got miles of money as far as oil money is concerned is Papua New Guinea
“There’s been talk that they’ll build a great stadium.
“The logistical issue would be that they’ve got health issues in the country, but I’ll say this, how many countries in the world could you say that rugby league has turned the country around?
“It totally swung everything.”
Johns’ radical idea has since gained traction, dividing many supporters.
If this idea was to be implemented, and the Pacific Islands did get the nod to have a team in the NRL, it would be one of, if not the most ambitious move in the league’s history.
Papua New Guinea is currently the only country where Rugby League is the national sport; however, there are many hurdles to overcome if the league was to base a team there that Johns has alluded to.