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NRL CEO Andrew Abdo has announced the biggest change to lower-grade footy since the Toyota Cup (under 20s) over a decade ago.
From 2022, the Queensland and New South Wales domestic competitions will combine to become the NRL’s official reserve grade premiership, featuring 28 teams.
The 14 QLD Intrust Super Cup teams and the 11 Knock-On Effect NSW Cup teams will be joined by Perth’s West Coast Pirates, an official Melbourne Storm reserve grade team, and a yet-to-be-decided Adelaide team.
Tentatively called the ‘NRL Reserve Grade Premiership’ (pending the announcement of a major sponsor), each team will play everyone else once (27 games), with 14 games each round (eight being played as curtain raisers to NRL games), and a massive top 10 finals series. It will also use the current NRL rules, including the controversial ‘Six Again’ rule. The NRL Reserve Grade Premiership Grand Final will be the curtain raiser to the NRL Grand Final in October.
All QLD and NSW Cup sides will keep their current identities (no forced mergers or awkward name changes) and will be the feeder club to at least one NRL side, depending on their location.
“This is arguably the most exciting change to reserve grade footy in over a decade,” Abdo said. “The new comp will formalise the next tier down and make it easier for fringe players to take the next step into the NRL, as well as giving players returning to the top grade – due to injury, a form slump, or suspension – some decent footy.”
While Abdo considered introducing a promotion/relegation system to tie in with the NRL, it proved to be a logistical nightmare, so it was dumped, at least for now.
He also said the new competition will give a pathway to potential NRL expansion teams. “The teams in the Reserve Grade Premiership will be playing top-level footy, week-in-week-out. It’s the perfect testing point for clubs who want to join the NRL, and ensures they’ll be ready to go when they eventually take the next step.”
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