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Fittler and Green see merit in possible conference revamp

Origin coaches Brad Fittler and Paul Green believe there is merit to the NRL potentially adopting a conference system down the track, particularly if it can build rivalries.

Fittler and Green, who attended the Ampol State of Origin launch in Melbourne, said they would like to see more detail before giving the proposal their full backing 

ARL Commissioner Peter Beattie confirmed on Wednesday that the league was looking at splitting teams geographically in the future if and when the Telstra Premiership expanded to 18 teams.

Fittler said there would be advantages for teams and fans if a draw was set up with clubs playing conference rivals twice and the other sides once each season during a two-year cycle.

"I grew up watching the Sydney team play in the rivalries, so I could really appreciate how that would work," he said.

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"I'm not sure the other rivalries in the other part of the draw how that would work. I think at the moment, some stability around who you play [would be good].

"A lot of people are putting a lot of flak on Brisbane, but Brisbane have played the top-four teams, plus Parra twice and play the Titans this week, so without a doubt, they've had the hardest draw by far."

Green said "there's some merit in it" as long as it's fair for all teams.

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"Probably the devil is in the detail, which is a fair bit to work out before I comment too specifically about it," he said.

"One of the things with any sort of conference style [competition] is to make sure the two conferences are reasonably even, otherwise if you end up in a stronger conference or a weaker conference, that's probably just going to question the integrity of the comp."

Former NSW coach Phil Gould believes a split-conference model would be a strong selling point for the NRL in negotiating broadcast deals.

"I've always been of the thought that every time you come up to negotiate a broadcast-rights deal you should have something different for the broadcasters," Gould said on the Six Tackles with Gus podcast.

"You should have a point of difference or a new product or a new competition or something that is a greater selling point.”

American sports traditionally use conference format and Sharks utility Connor Tracey said, who follows the NFL, he thought it could work in the NRL.

"I'm an NFL fan so I think it's pretty cool in that sense. We're sort of copying their format, I think it's a good format," he said.

"The only issue is the two best teams sometimes don't play each other in the grand final, which happens in the NFL as well, but I do think there's merit.

"It's pretty cool having the local teams play each other then you sort of meet in the playoffs, that's a pretty cool set-up.

"We'll just have to see different people's reactions to it but I certainly think it's something to look at."

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Fittler said a potential uneven distribution of travel appeared to be the main drawback to the idea.

"I think sometimes travel ends up being, you can benefit, you bring people together and they're together a lot. It all depends with where you're at with your club at that stage," he said.

"All in all, over time, travel I don't think it's a good thing."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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