Queensland Rugby League officials have backed the Intrust Super Cup champions to extend their rugby league dominance from the State of Origin arena to the new National Championship following the announcement of an interstate showdown on NRL Grand Final day from 2014.
The National Championship will pit the premiers of Queensland's Intrust Super Cup against the winners of the VB NSW Cup, possibly as the main curtain-raiser to the NRL Grand Final.
The NSW Cup Grand Final between Cronulla and Windsor was the first of the three games played on Grand Final day this year but the move to include Queensland's premier team on the game's greatest stage will give the occasion greater relevance to Queensland rugby league fans according to QRL chairman Peter Betros.
"Everyone turns on the TV on Grand Final day but no-one's got any interest in those earlier games in Queensland because it's always been New South Wales clubs," Betros told NRL.com.
"But if you put a game on at 1.30 or 2 o'clock where you have got a Queensland club playing a NSW club, I think the audience in Queensland will be enormous for that.
"We're really excited for that chance to pit a Queensland team against a NSW team and the TV exposure that will bring and the amount of people that will watch that."
Of course, with the Auckland Vulcans in the NSW Cup and Papua New Guinea being admitted into the Intrust Super Cup for the first time, the National Championship could be fought out between two international teams although recent history points to another Queensland-NSW showdown.
Mackay Cutters CEO Glenn Ottaway conceded that he regularly has his players asking when they will get their shot at the NSW Cup champions and just hopes that the Intrust Super Cup defending premiers get exactly that chance next October.
"The players all know about it and they ask the question all the time – when they're going to get a crack at the NSW Cup sides – so it just adds another dimension to our competition," Ottaway said.
"I just hope we haven't peaked a year too early because I'd like to think we could hopefully do it again and take up that opportunity.
"It's certainly something that forms hot debate. I know as soon as we played our grand final for the Intrust Super Cup and then the following week was the grand final of the NSW Cup on NRL grand final day, I had a lot of people call me saying, 'We reckon you would have done it tough against the Sharks' or, 'We reckon you would have rolled the Sharks'. This is the opportunity now to see which way it would go.
"Grand finals are very much one of those things about who turns up to play on the day but certainly we'd relish the opportunity if we got it again. I'm sure any club at our level, in the Intrust Super Cup, would back themselves to go down there and perform well on Grand Final day."
Despite the elevation of the state-based competitions to a more prominent position on Grand Final day, Betros indicated that the QRL would not necessarily support the second-tier competitions becoming the curtain-raiser to NRL games, as has been mooted in some circles.
"In Queensland it might not be such an advantage," said Betros. "We have great exposure on Channel Nine at 2 o'clock on Sunday with our live telecast and if the game of the round was taken away and put on as a curtain-raiser before an NRL game on a Friday night for example, we wouldn't get the same exposure.
"I don't believe that will be much of an option for Queensland. It will probably happen a lot more in NSW but not so much in Queensland."
The formation of the National Championship was one of a number of outcomes handed down by NRL chief operating officer Jim Doyle in the Elite Pathways Review. They include:
• A State Competitions Committee that will be established with representation from the NRL, QRL and NSWRL;
• Base funding for clubs ($100,000) is available subject to the following criteria – effective corporate governance model; ground facilities; appropriate level of management; investment in development/coaching programs;
• Formation of club affiliations – Primary and Secondary. NRL clubs will be required to maintain a Primary Affiliation in their geographic location. However, they can now have a Secondary Affiliation, effectively paving the way for an interstate club to place up to a third of their players with a Queensland club.
The 2014 Intrust Super Cup season will kick-off on the weekend of March 1-2 and will feature Redcliffe hosting Papua New Guinea as the Channel Nine match of the round with Mackay to travel to Kokopo to play PNG in Round 2.