Australian News

Andrew Johns suggests NRL adopts 12-team competition as coronavirus leaves financial hit


March 27, 2020 19:25:46

Rugby league Immortal Andrew Johns has suggested the NRL consider reducing the number of teams in its men’s competition from 16 to 12 if it wants to ensure its long-term survival in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Key points:

  • Andrew Johns says a reduction in teams in the men’s NRL competition may help avoid richer clubs becoming more dominant
  • The NRL is yet to confirm whether the men’s and women’s State of Origin matches will be played this year
  • The men’s second-tier state leagues are among competitions that have been cancelled because of coronavirus

The NRL suspended the 2020 men’s premiership season on Monday because of coronavirus and the game is facing a massive financial hit while the competition is on hold, with players reportedly facing a pay cut ranging from 75 to almost 90 per cent of their current salaries.

Johns said the NRL might have to cull financially struggling clubs in the coming years to make sure it could field a competitive men’s competition.

“Only the strong survive,” he told the Nine Network.

“Maybe this (shutdown) forces their (the NRL’s) hand … if you have a look at the juniors there are less kids playing for whatever reason. There’s less numbers, so I think 12 (clubs) is the best number.

“But how that happens, I don’t know.”

Johns said he struggled to see all 16 clubs still standing in the future.

“The worrying thing for me … is this year I could see a bigger difference between the elite and the poor clubs, the ones that were struggling,” he said.

“When we come back [after the suspension] the gap is going to get bigger and bigger between the wealthy, stronger clubs with the best players and the rest.

“It’s going to be even more extreme. The strong will get stronger, and the weak will get weaker.

The NRL is yet to decide whether the men’s and women’s State of Origin matches will go ahead this year.

Stay up-to-date on the coronavirus outbreak

But the NRL announced today that the New South Wales and Queensland men’s second-tier competitions will be cancelled, while several junior men’s and women’s leagues in each state will also not go ahead.

“I know this will be a disappointing outcome for those involved in these competitions right across Australia,” NRL head of football for participation, pathways and game development Luke Ellis said in a statement.

“But the health and safety of those involved with rugby league must always come first.”

Frizell leaves Dragons for Knights

Tyson Frizell may have played his final match for St George Illawarra if the 2020 season does not resume, after he opted to join Newcastle on a three-year deal from 2021.

In a bitter blow for the Dragons, the Knights confirmed Frizell had accepted a contract worth a reported $2.1 million that was offered in January.

Dragons recruitment manager Ian Millward said the club made the best offer it could before the New South Wales State of Origin representative decided to leave at season’s end.

“Tyson Frizell received one of the most substantial offers in St George Illawarra history to remain at the club beyond the 2020 season,” he said.

“It was a deal that reflected his contribution over the past eight years, and of course, the seasons that would have followed.”

The NRL is yet to register Frizell’s contract, with all new or updated deals on hold while the season is suspended due to the coronavirus crisis.

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