Chief executive David Smith insists the NRL is intent on growing rugby league into a national code.
NRL expansion remains very much on the agenda but the lessons from previous failed efforts still resonate down the corridors at Rugby League Central.
NRL boss Dave Smith confirmed on Monday expanding the 16-team competition remains in the sights of the game’s governing body but wouldn’t commit as to what shape it could possibly take.
The Brisbane Bombers consortium hosted the trial match between Canterbury and Melbourne at Suncorp Stadium on Sunday and they say the 10,000 fans who showed up is evidence of the appetite to grow the game at the elite level in the Queensland capital.
But Smith was cautious as to how the NRL would approach any expansion moves, indicating that it could happen in the tier-two NSW Cup or Queensland Cup competitions first.
“I’m looking at it from top to bottom, what we have said is we won’t consider expansion until the end of this season and that is still the truth,” Smith said at the presentation of the NRL’s Annual Report.
“The significance of a national competition at the tier two level represents a really big opportunity for us potentially, particularly to expand into the bush areas with a higher level of football.
“This year we will take it all into consideration, and think very carefully about what is the right thing to do for the game given where the game is.”
Smith insisted the NRL was intent on moving beyond its heartland states but that the lessons of failed expansion teams such as the Western Reds, the Adelaide Rams and South Queensland Crushers must be learned.
“I’m talking about assessing the competition for a national footprint,” Smith said.
“We are stronger and healthier than we ever have been in the past.
“We will strengthen the tier two competition with an $11 million investment this year.
“The Queensland Cup winners will play the NSW Cup winners on Grand Final day and we already have an additional tier two team with Papua New Guinea coming in.
“We will look at all of the areas, nationally and regionally and make an assessment.
“The game is poised for growth. We have a wonderful opportunity. We have to be careful of how we assess that opportunity.”