NRL considering preseason tournament in 2023 in what will be stacked season

A new pre-season competition, that would also involve Super League champions St Helens, for points and prizemoney is under consideration by the NRL.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports league powerbrokers are looking at drawing extra sponsorship during the trial period and rival the AFL’s NAB Cup as a legitimate pre-season tournament. The proposed tournament will also serve as a vehicle to draw interest to the NRL’s newest team the Dolphins.

The competition could open next year, although there are several factors the NRL is considering before deciding whether the event officially goes ahead, including whether a planned competition game in the United States will kick off the season proper.

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A preseason competition in the NRL would be the first time the idea would be implemented since the Tooheys Challenge which ran in the early 1990s.

Under the proposal, head office would offer incentives for the clubs to field competitive outfits and would take over the trial schedule, which has been left largely to the clubs in the past.

However, it would be a logistical challenge for the NRL in what is already shaping as the most complex draw in its history due to a multitude of factors.

The World Cup, a potential US game, the All Stars fixture and the unavailability of several venues for a long period due to the FIFA Women’s World Cup are all complicating factors.

Then there’s the potential of the season being extended to 27 rounds, requiring each team to have three bye rounds.

A final decision on whether the US game goes ahead next year, or is postponed until 2024, is due soon.

The Rugby League Players’ Association will be keen to ensure players still receive adequate annual leave and that five-day turnarounds are kept to a minimum.

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