Fears raised amid ‘worrying’ expansion plans

Rugby league Immortal Andrew Johns has raised fears over plans to expand the NRL, declaring there’s such a shortage of top-end talent that the governing body should actually cut teams.

ARLC chairman Peter V’landys and NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo plan on adding a second Brisbane club in 2023 and hope to introduce an 18th club by 2027, just in time for renegotiating a new broadcast deal.

The 18-team NRL competition could even be split across two conferences, V’landys announced last month.

But Magic Round’s average winning margin was 20.75 and the ugliest game saw Manly steamroll Brisbane in a 50-6 win, numbers that add weight to Johns’ claims of a lack of elite talent.

“The worrying thing for me is they’re talking about bringing two more teams in. I don’t know where the talent pool is going to come from,” Johns said on Wide World of Sports’ Immortal Behaviour.

“There are less kids playing sport in general but less kids playing NRL. Video games, worrying about head knocks and how big the kids are in junior footy.

“I think the ideal number to start with is 14 teams and then eventually going down to 12 teams where everyone plays each other twice.

“I just worry with the two extra teams where the absolute, elite talent pool is going to come from. It’s probably the biggest gap we’ve seen.”

Johns says the NRL has too many Sydney clubs but conceded it’d have to take an unapologetic leader to axe a team from the harbour city.

V’landys has shown during his reign as ARLC boss that he’s as defiant an administrator as they come, mostly evident in pushing the government to resume the 2020 season on May 28 during the COVID-19 pandemic and the maligned crackdown on high shots.

V’landys also introduced the six-again rule and has consistently bagged the AFL.

“If you look at it, there are probably too many teams in Sydney,” Johns said.

“How you get them down I don’t know. It would take an extremely tough leader to make those decisions. I just worry about two more teams and how the competition will be once we have 18 teams.”

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