There are reports that the NRL are considering splitting the competiton into two conferences as part of an expansion to an 18 team competition. It's not entirely nuts - the conference system works well with some of the big American sporting competitions and is likely to deliver increased broadcasting revenues (without which, the NRL is effectively dust). CEO Andrew Abdo and Chairman Peter V'Landys have met with several clubs in recent weeks and are already getting support for the idea from some important figures in the game.
Clearly we are a long way away from having intimate details at this point, but the two conferences are likely to be split as follows:
Conference A (the Sydney teams)
Roosters, Rabbitohs, Eels, Bulldogs, Tigers, Panthers, Dragons, Sharks and Sea Eagles.
Conference B (everyone else)
Broncos, Titans, Cowboys, Storm, Warriors, Knights, Raiders, plus one new Brisbane based team and (probably) a second New Zealand team (presumably based in Wellington or Christchurch.
This would lead to a grand final between the top team from each conference.
My main concern is for a lot of NRL fans up in Queensland. A lot of people up here actually follow a Sydney based team (an idea that lots of Sydneysiders and Coach Potatoes can never get their head around). Turn up at Suncorp for a Broncos game and you will regularly get 5 to 10 thousand fans at the game supporting the other side. This is, at least in part, because rugby league fans in Queensland used to follow a team in the QRL and a team in the NSWRL. When the NSWRL expanded to a national competition, many of those people stuck solid with their NSWRL team rather than jump on the Broncos bandwagon. A conference system means those fans miss out on seeing their team live up in Queensland.
Depth of talent may be an issue too, as is often the case when any competition expands. Hopefully, that resolves itself in time as more kids get more opportunities.
I'm interested to hear what people think of the idea. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.