The NRL have reportedly all but locked in expansion for 2023, with only a few final hurdles still needing to be cleared.
According to the Daily Telegraph, an announcement confirming the NRL will go to 17 teams from the start of the 2023 season is set to be made within a fortnight.
It had previously been thought expansion would happen from either 2023 or 2024, but an Australian Rugby League Commission meeting reportedly heard analysis of expansion and financial forecasting yesterday was better than expected, allowing them to move forward with the earlier target.
What is not set to be revealed at the announcement, to be made in the week after the grand final, is which team has won the bid to become the NRL's 17th team.
It's understood that while chairman Peter V'Landys will clear the idea of going to 17 teams with all 16 clubs this weekend, the three bid options will be given another chance to make final presentations and pitches following the expansion announcement.
A winning team will then be announced in the leadup to November 1, which will then allow that bid to become involved in negotiations for players from the deadline day, which allows players off-contract at the end of 2022 to begin negotiating with rival clubs.
It's been widely reported that the Redcliffe Dolphins are the favourite to claim the NRL's 17th licence, ahead of the Brisbane Firehawks and Brisbane Jets, who had at one point considered merging in an attempt to move past the Dolphins in the queue.
The Dolphins have facilities and a stadium ready to go in Redcliffe, a venue and region which showed strong support for NRL games when played there during the competition's move to south east Queensland thanks to the pandemic at the back end of this season.
The Firehawks and Jets, on the other hand, would both be expected to play alongside the Broncos out of Suncorp Stadium.
The expansion announcement will be the first since the Gold Coast Titans joined the competition.