VISION: Western Corridor NRL bid chairman Steve Johnson has outlined his preferred format for an 18-team comp.
VISION: Western Corridor NRL bid chairman Steve Johnson has outlined his preferred format for an 18-team comp. Sarah Harvey

Expanded NRL comp needs three-conference format: Johnson

NRL expansion has been on the table for the past five years and Jets chairman Steve Johnson is adamant he has an 18-team model in a three-conference format which would work a treat.

While the NRL mulls over if and when expansion will take place, a key component of an expanded game will be providing broadcasters with the content they desire while not taxing players in what is already one of the most physically demanding sports in the world.

"There is a view inside the game that the players are playing in too many games each year and you can't compare the game now to days of old," Johnson said.

"Every NRL game is played with the intensity of an Origin game 10 years ago, so the players bodies do get tired.

"So the model we are suggesting is a three-conference competition with six teams in each conference."

In the Johnson model each team in a conference would play each other twice, making 10 games. Each side would then play the other 12 teams once for a 22-game season, two less than the current format.

Two byes could also be factored in allowing for an NRL season shortened by two weeks.

"Ideally from a Queensland point of view, being selfish about it, we would have the four Queensland clubs including the Western Corridor in our conference," he said.

"In our conference we would have the two other clubs that rate highest in Queensland. An arena like Suncorp Stadium deserves big crowds.

"You would play the NRL clubs that don't rate as highly in Queensland, such as Newcastle and Canberra, in their own patch. That would draw big crowds.

"When you are talking about maximising opportunities for the game, there is no point bringing to Suncorp Stadium sides that would get you 23,000 when you can get sides that draw 35,000 to 40,000."

The QT asked Johnson whether other clubs would accept such a model which may appear on the surface to be allowing the Queensland based teams to take all the cream.

"We are not taking all the cream because when you take the big Queensland brands to their grounds they have the chance to play us once a year and maximise their crowds," he said.

As it stands each round has eight games and broadcasters currently screen 192 NRL round games a season over 24 rounds.

Under Johnson's model broadcasters would showcase 198 games a year (with 22 rounds each year and nine games per round).

That tallies to six more games of football for the broadcasters but two less games a year for the players, which Johnson said was a win-win for both parties.



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