Written by Oliver Kellner-Dunk
In 2023 the NRL’s 17th franchise The Dolphins will partake in their inaugural season taking the potential number of registered NRL players to 510.
While the introduction of The Dolphins will likely be financially beneficial to the NRL it certainly does not help the competition’s talent pool.
This season is the perfect example of how the overall quality of the NRL has suffered due to an oversaturation of clubs.
Last year’s premiers the Penrith Panthers wrapped up the minor premiership with two games left to go in the regular season and will finish on top of the ladder by at least four points, making it the fourth time in the past six seasons that the minor premiers have had at least a two-game gap between themselves and second.
While only one team to do this has then gone on to win the premiership it shows just how easy it has become for one team to dominate an entire regular season.
Taking a look at the other end of the ladder now where the bottom five teams have been out of finals contention since before the halfway point of the season and their lack of quality compared to the rest of the NRL has never been more obvious with a six-point gap currently between the 11th placed Manly Warringah Sea Eagles and 12th placed Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs.
— NRL (@NRL) August 31, 2022
It can be argued that 2022 is a record year for the number of clubs that have had wooden spoon-worthy seasons with every team from the Bulldogs and below looking like the favourites to finish last at one point or another.
Speaking of the Bulldogs, their current record for this year would have seen them finish last in three out of the past ten seasons and finish 15th on points difference alone in a further four, and of course, the stats just get worse when delving into the bottom four teams.
There is an issue with the NRL’s talent pool which can only get worse by adding more clubs, something the NRL intends to do with an 18th club to eventually join the competition.
As hard as it will be to do at some point the NRL are going to have to reduce the number of teams in its competition or make more rule changes to try and spread talent across the league more evenly.