While the NRL continues to look at ways to further expand the competition, Wayne Bennett believes relocating a NSW club should be the first step.

A 17th team entered the NRL this season in the Dolphins, who have been a surprising success under Wayne Bennett so far. The side's underwhelming recruitment had them tipped by many for the wooden spoon before starting the year 3-0.

They finally suffered their first defeat on Friday night, a six-point loss to 'big brother' Broncos in the inaugural 'Battle for Brisbane'.

While the Dolphins have started well, introducing three new franchises in the next decade seems a stretch, even if there is a host of candidates vying for their own team.

Perth, Adelaide, Toowoomba, Mackay, Wellington and a combined Pasifika team have all been floated, however there's been debate over whether the NRL has the talent for 20 sides, as well as the length of time it takes to establish them.

Queensland Rugby League's chairman, Bruce Hatcher, has called for a Sydney team to be culled with nine clubs currently sharing the major city, while Newcastle is the tenth NSW club, just two hours north.

Hatcher has found an ally in Wayne Bennett, as well as ARLC chairman Peter V'landys, who are both pushing for further expansion.

Hatcher believes instead of killing off a club, they should be moved to Perth, and give the city a pre-existing brand to barrack for.

“The best way to give Perth an identity in the NRL is to straddle two markets with a history starting out of Sydney,” Hatcher told News Corp.

“There are too many teams in Sydney, but if you take one team out of Sydney and move it to Perth, we will have a better-balanced competition with a national footprint.

“I'm not going to name which (Sydney) team should go, I will leave that to the ARL Commission.

“The AFL has relocated teams with South Melbourne and Fitzroy and while it took time, the Sydney Swans and Brisbane Lions are now forces of their competition.

“The intermediate problem is getting a team to Perth. I still think the best solution is to take a team from Sydney to Western Australia and if you include a fifth Queensland team, that's an 18-team competition.

“We need a truly national footprint.

“Everyone agrees with me behind the scenes, but no-one ever talks about it openly.”

Not every club wants the competition expanded further, and Wayne Bennett has a simple explanation as to why.

“Because they are selfish," Bennett told News Corp.

“If Sydney had their way, they wouldn't be playing anywhere else but in Sydney.

“They wouldn't want Test matches or State of Origins.

“That's why you have administrators outside of the clubs that have to make decisions in the best interests of what the game needs.

“But we get selfish in clubs and a bit personal.

“We all want to win the premiership but we don't want to play against anybody to win it.”

Hatcher's ideal plan would be an 18-team competition, with one Sydney club shifting to Western Australia, and the 18th also coming in Queensland.

“Our competition (Queensland Cup) is a good pathway to the NRL and I have no doubt the talent is there for an 18th team,” Hatcher continued.

“We can't leave Perth out to dry.

“We have taken two Origin games to Perth and there's a reason we have done that. They have the population, infrastructure and a great stadium (Optus), so there is a market in Perth.

“I think Queensland can sustain a fifth team and I'd be putting them in the western corridor from Logan through to the southwest beyond Toowoomba. It would cover that area. That corridor has to be catered for.

“I would have these teams come in for the next broadcast deal.

“Ipswich were the main threat to the Dolphins bid and that western region is a massive growth corridor for Brisbane.

“The AFL is looking at that region and I believe we need to shore up that area in Queensland.”

The NRL could fast-track an 18th team as soon as 2026 as they continue to monitor the Dolphins' success, and gauge whether the competition is ready for another side.


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