Proposed NRL expansion could see a second NZ-based team competing in a two-conference system, similar to American football's NFL.
The idea isn't a new one - it raises its head every time the Aussie rugby league competition considers breaking new ground.
But the Sydney Morning Herald reports NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo and chairman Peter V'landys have met with several clubs to outline how a newlook format might work.
Essentially, all the Sydney clubs would make up one conference, while the NZ Warriors and another trans-Tasman outfit would join a second group outside Australia's most populous city.
Sydney conference: Canterbury Bulldogs, Cronulla Sharks, Manly Sea Eagles, Parramatta Eels, Penrith Panthers, St George Dragons, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Sydney Roosters, Wests Tigers
Outside Sydney conference: Brisbane Broncos, Canberra Raiders, Gold Coast Titans, Newcastle Knights, NZ Warriors, North Queensland Cowboys, second franchises from New Zealand & Brisbane
SMH reports that the NRL sees a second NZ team as crucial to challenging rugby union on this side of the ditch, creating an instant rivalry with the Warriors that would further boost the 13-man code.
The competition already intends adding a 17th team from Brisbane in 2023, with another NZ possibly further down the track.
"Moving to 17 teams wouldn't be an end point," Abdo said recently. "It gets you closer to 18 teams and obviously 18 teams gives you a few different options.
"An 18th team allows you to think about what we might want to do about expanding in New Zealand. Having two teams in New Zealand creates a tribalism and a new rivalry in New Zealand.
"It also gives you options around pools, because you can have two pools of nine teams. As you see with some of the big US sports, as you grow your competition and the scale of the number of teams, you can create a dynamic around who plays who."
Crucially, expansion would create more playoff games, which attract the biggest crowds, and provide an even bigger product to maximise broadcast rights, where the competition earns most of its revenue.
Two conferences would effectively create three Grand Finals a year - one for each conference and a Super Bowl-type playoff between the two winners.
Abdo has refused to comment on the proposal, claiming discussions with the clubs as "confidential".
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