The NRL appears to be in full swing to introduce an 18th team into the competition, having only just approved a 17th license, which was won by the Dolphins, announced this week.
The Dolphins will enter the top league in 2023, and the governing body already plans to add another team to the NRL in a few years.
But rugby league legend Darren Lockyer has pleaded with those responsible for the game to strengthen lower-class competitions in NSW and Queensland before expanding the sport to the top end.
READ MORE: Rugby league Immortal Norm Provan dies at the age of 89 years
READ MORE: Kyrie Irving’s ‘conspiracy’ vaccine raises $ 34m in salary
READ MORE: West Indian legends Curtly Ambrose and Chris Gayle dispute
He believes the NRL could do more to raise the profile of the NSW Cup and Queensland Cup – run separately by the two states’ respective rugby league headquarters – to effectively expand the reach of the top-flight rugby league, without necessarily adding teams for elite competition.
“I think the Intrust Cup teams in both respective states need to get resources properly,” Lockyer said Wide world of sports.
The NRL admits the Dolphins as the 17th team
“If they are stronger in their community, it helps our game, because NRL teams may not be all over the country, but you can have your second-class competitions where kids also strive to play there.
“There is no doubt about having an NRL team that creates an ambition or an inspiration. But I think we can also invest in second-class competitions.
“It’s another way to raise awareness of games, increase professionalism and the brand of the particular clubs.
“Creating that road for a child in central Queensland … so what is it right now? And that’s where I think as a whole game, how do we maximize the opportunities for our children across the country?
“I know the NRL is investing in the Intrust Cup, but I think there’s an option. If we want to keep growing our game, you do not necessarily have to put an NRL team in that market. about improving what is already there.
“Make it something that a child who comes through will be a part of, that is part of the NRL.”
NRL CEO on why the code welcomes new team
Lockyer – who is one of Brisbane’s greatest players ever and is now the Broncos’ director – welcomed the addition of the Dolphins to the NRL.
These two clubs will be in direct competition and even share Suncorp Stadium as a home despite the Dolphins being based at the Moreton Daily Stadium northeast of Brisbane.
That means junior players in this area have another NRL team to strive for, and Lockyer says it will increase competition for the state’s best talent.
“There’s no doubt it makes it harder (it signs the best talent). But I think it also makes you try harder too,” he said.
“I think you need to look at your own systems and see how we can do better. Dolphins already have a fanbase, they want to attract a fanbase, and that’s a growth area in southeast Queensland.
“We have to do what we do now, but do it better.
“Sometimes what happens at the elite level also affects the kids who get through in the juniors. If the top team does well, of course, it helps.”
For a daily dose of the best news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, sign up for our newsletter per. click here!