Queensland open to NSW invasion
Between them they share the fiercest rivalry in rugby league but Queensland Rugby League CEO Rob Moore says he would welcome any New South Wales-based NRL clubs who wish to affiliate with areas of Queensland in the new state cup structure announced on Thursday.
From 2018 the Intrust Super Cup and Intrust Super Premiership competitions will be promoted and resourced as the premier pathway for players hoping to play in the NRL with the current National Youth Competition to revert to state-based under-20s competitions.
NRL clubs who currently have affiliations with Intrust Super Cup clubs in Queensland are the Cowboys (Mackay, Northern Pride, Townsville), Broncos (Souths Logan, Norths, Wynnum Manly, Redcliffe, Ipswich), Titans (Burleigh, Tweed Heads) and the Storm (Easts, Sunshine Coast).
In 2016 the Storm's Holden Cup team was based on the Sunshine Coast and played all but one of their home games at Sunshine Coast Stadium in what will become something of the model moving forward.
The Rockhampton-based Central Queensland Capras and PNG Hunters are the only clubs without direct NRL affiliations and Moore told NRL.com that as young players will be able to remain in their local areas that he would welcome investment by NSW-based NRL clubs in future.
"We've never shied away from that. We've raised it for years in meetings with the old New South Wales Rugby League and the ARL and the NRL now and we don't have any concerns about that," Moore said.
"It's not going to change the eligibility of kids and those sorts of things which was the fear in the past. It just means that more of our talent will get the opportunity.
"If there are more NRL clubs that have more affiliations with our Intrust Super Cup clubs then more of our young players will get an opportunity. Simple as that.
"At this stage the Capras are still unaffiliated to an NRL club but we're hopeful that there will be something resolved for the Capras in the short term as well."
Identifying the disconnect young players were experiencing once their time in the NYC competition came to a close, QRL officials have been pushing for a realignment of the development pathways for a number of years.
Maroons coach Kevin Walters spoke of how the game got the pathway right 100 years ago and Moore is adamant that many players who weren't picked up by NRL clubs straight out of under-20s found it difficult to cope mentally.
"We were seeing players who were taking a sideways step so to speak on their way to the NRL," Moore said.
"They were coming up through junior local leagues and then across to the NYC and then the very few that ever made it went up. The rest had to come back to [Intrust Super Cup] clubs.
"Some never came back, some did, but the ones that came back, the numbers that were then going through and playing a 10-year career in the Intrust Super Cup or going on to NRL were quite low.
"They were disheartened. They thought they'd missed out. They went from wearing an NRL badge to wearing an Intrust Super Cup badge again and that had a big impact on those kids.
"We always thought to line the pathway up and keep the players at home, keep them in their Intrust Super Cup kit as long as we could, made a significant difference to that."
Walters, Cowboys coach Paul Green and Titans coach Neil Henry all spoke in favour of the restructure with Henry believing those stand-out teens capable of playing NRL will be given early exposure to the senior state competitions.
"They are the true pathway through for the younger players anyway and they can get a mixture playing with the older players," Henry said. "The stronger that we make those second tier competitions the better the comp's going to be.
"There are a bunch of players that at a young age have got the ability to step up and play [NRL] and I think that will still happen.
"You'll fast-track some of your younger players – your 18 and 19-year-olds. They'd be looking at playing Queensland Cup and NSW Cup at an early age, not staying in the 20s competition and once that's a valid pathway that will happen a bit more often."