While the NRL has an interest in expanding the competition, Knights premiership winner Matthew Johns has discussed where he believes the next expansion side should be based.
As the Dolphins look to win three in a row this week, ARLC CEO Peter V'landys has confirmed that the NRL is looking to expand the competition to 20 teams.
Whilst it may take a while for three new expansion teams to join the NRL, Johns is adamant that the next team to join should be from the Pasifika.
"20 at the moment is too much, when we do expand, in my opinion, the first side that should come in is Pasifika," Johns said on SEN 1170 The Round Up.
"I think in a shorter period of time if you have a side representing Pasifika, you look at where the games gone, the amount of Pacific Island players in the competition, the impact they're having, I think Pasifika is a must."
"I know the Australian Government, Anthony Albanese is desperate for Peter V'landys to bring in a Pasifika side, so they have a presence in the pacific… it's around the presence of China in that region"
In the same segment, Johns also believed that Perth and Papua New Guinea could also be chosen as the landing spot for the 18th team.
Concerned about the depth of the current playing pool, Johns can't see the NRL expanding to 20 teams for another decade.
"I think 20 (teams) is too much at the moment, maybe a decade down the line we'll get there."
Be careful what you ask for because you might just get it.
First, what is a “Pasifika” team ?
– Is it a team of players who were born solely in Pacific Islands (Tonga/Samoa/Fiji/PNG/Cook Islands etc) ?
– Is it a team of players who are eligible to play for a Pacific island nation, even though they were born in Oz ?
– Or are Maoris and white New Zealanders eligible as well ?
Second. If the NRL wants to expand the world-wide game and the Australian government wants to project soft-power in the Pacific region, is this the best way to go about it ? Alternatives:
– Start with another Q-Cup or NSW Cup team, with eligibility defined by the answer to Q1. Build it up, get the “pathways” established, and look to an NRL team in (say) five or six years.
– Spend a load of Australian government money establishing/beefing-up the pathways in the island nations. The feds fund it and the NRL acts as the agency for delivering the service. (ie analogous to the way State government-level Departments deliver the national policies set by the federal government and federal-government-level Departments. That might deliver on the soft-power government aim, and (with Q-Cup and NSW Cup teams) provide a mechanism for Pasifika players to learn and develop and eventually go to the new NRL team (in five or six years).
Third. What is the NRL going to do if it sets up a Pasifika team (however defined) as the eighteenth club, and it completely bombs because:
– all the good eligible players are on contracts to existing clubs
– can’t find a decent coach
– don’t have sufficient junior clubs (if any) playing in Jersey Flegg, NSW Cup etc to provide juniors coming through
– political interference from the Fereral Government, island nations etc
– squabbles over who funds the improvement to grounds in the islands (which would make NSW stadium strategy look like a back-yard tussle between a couple of seven-year olds.)
– arguments over who is running the liaison between the governments and the NRL (potentially it is as big a job as running the NRL itself. Not a job for Andrew “Mr Invisible” Abdo, or Peter “make it up on the run” V’Landys.
A Pasifika team would be a LOT more challenging than a Perth team.
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