The NRL has taken a huge step forward in it plans to split the competition into two conferences as part of its expansion plans for the 2023 season, according to a secret dossier given to NRL clubs.
The league has previously flirted with the concept of a divided competition, but the NRL is more serious than ever about the plan to rejuvenate the competition after discussions with the 16 clubs, Fox Sports can reveal.
The two conference system would include a Sydney-based conference and a conference made up of the teams outside Sydney – with a second Kiwi team and another from Brisbane on track to join the latter.
How the NRL conferences would look:
Sydney conference: Sydney Roosters, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Parramatta Eels, Canterbury Bulldogs, Wests Tigers, Penrith Panthers, St George Illawarra Dragons, Cronulla Sharks and Manly Sea Eagles.
Expansion conference: Brisbane Broncos, Gold Coast Titans, North Queensland Cowboys, Melbourne Storm, New Zealand Warriors, Newcastle Knights, Canberra Raiders, second Brisbane franchise, second New Zealand franchise.
How the season would work:
The nine teams from each conference play each other twice (16 games) and each team from the other conference once (nine games)
How the finals system would work
Each conference would have a top four group of teams that qualify for the finals. Separate competitions would be launched in an elimination format that would begin with 1vs4 and 2vs3. The winners of each conference would then play for the NRL grand final.