The NRL has recently just expanded from 16 teams to 17 with the addition of Redcliffe Dolphins who will be coached by former England boss, Wayne Bennett, but that figure may yet increase according to reports in Australia.
With the league now having an odd number of teams the NRL is set to introduce bye weeks to navigate the unbalanced schedule, however Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese wants to address the balance by adding an 18th team reportedly.
Per an Australian media outlet, The West Australian, the PM is set to make a speech in Papua New Guinea to the pacific island nation’s parliament during which he will call for a Papua New Guinean based NRL team.
The West Australian report that he is expected to say: “Today I affirm my view that I want to see a PNG-based, Pacific Islander team compete in the National Rugby League competition.
“Sport is such a genuine and powerful way of building strong and lasting ties between our peoples, at a code and club and community and family level.”
The PM has reportedly been very keen for a period of time to expand the NRL across to a third nation, New Zealand are already represented with the Warriors based in Auckland, and Albanese believes PNG is the place for expansion.
There is already ties with PNG as the Papua New Guinea Hunters compete in the Queensland Rugby League and became the second PNG-based side to enter the Queensland Cup, which is the Australian equivalent to the Championship with many NRL sides having feeder teams in the Queensland and New South Wales Cup’s respectively.
Prime Minister Albanese had previously told ABC Radio about his plans to discuss an expansion team during his visit to the island nation that is approximately 1,500 miles from mainland Australia, approximately double the journey that Catalans Dragons make when away from home and only 100 miles more than the journey that the New Zealand Warriors make to compete in the NRL.
“Of course, those links are so important — that we have those cultural links and our common interests,” Albanese told ABC Radio,
“And one of our common interests is, of course, our passion for rugby league.”
What happens next, or whether Albanese actually makes the reported speech is yet to be seen, but it would appear that new NRL expansion teams could be like buses – you wait a while for one and then two come along at once.