I’m sure this isn’t a completely original thought, but with the desire to expand but also the desire to shorten the length of the competition to prevent player burnout, I feel that introducing conferences is the future of the game.
Basically how it would work is 20 teams. The current 16 + Perth, Central Coast, Central QLD and Brisbane 2 are divided into two conferences of 10. To balance them you base it on the performance of the teams in the season prior (minor premiership rounds). So if it were to start this season it would look like this.
Gold Coast Titans
New Zealand Warriors
South Sydney Rabbitohs
Central Coast Bears
Manly Sea Eagles
North Queensland Cowboys
St George-Illawarra Dragons
Each team plays each other team in their conference twice, plus 2 byes making 20 rounds. In round 21 the teams finishing 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th in each conference play against their counterpart to determine the final top 8. So let’s say hypothetically each conference finished the way it’s written there, Round 21 would look like (bold win).
1 v 1 = Melbourne vs. Manly
2 v 2 = Canberra vs. Gold Coast
3 v 3 = Brisbane vs. Wests
4 v 4 = Parra vs. Sharks
Then the final table would be;
After which we have a normal McIntyre finals system.
This gives us 5 extra rounds (considering each team still gets two byes anyway) with which to conduct any of the following.
A) Pre Season Comp/World RL Sevens
B) Stand Alone Rep Weekends
C) Trade Window
D) Extra bye rounds to prevent player burnout
In addition after Round 21 you could have a second all stars match comprising the public selected best 17 players from the 12 teams that failed to make the finals. A last chance match to impress leading in to the internationals played after the end of the season. This match could take place before the Grand Final.
Melbourne, Perth, Canberra
North Queensland, Brisbane, Gold Coast
Bulldogs, Parramatta, Penrith
Wests, Souths, Easts
Manly, Central Coast, Newcastle
Sharks, Dragons, New Zealand
6 conferences of 3, with 18 teams
Each plays each other team once 17 games, conference teams twice 2 games, and revolves around each conference over a 6 year period for another 3 games, so 23 games in regular rounds.
Otherwise ladder and finals is much the same.