Matty Johns’ left-field idea for 18th NRL team

Newcastle Knights legend Matty Johns has proposed a left-field idea for a potential 18th NRL franchise, just days after the competition was expanded to 17 teams.

On Wednesday, the NRL officially confirmed the Dolphins had clinched the league’s 17th licence, staving off bids from the Brisbane Firehawks and Brisbane Jets.

The Australian Rugby League Commission accepted the Dolphins as the preferred candidate on the back of the club’s $70 million assets and $20 million cash reserves.

The Dolphins will enter the NRL in 2023 — becoming the first expansion side to join the competition since the Gold Coast Titans in 2007.

The new team will be based in Redcliffe, approximately 40km from Brisbane’s CBD.

However, the club won’t use “Redcliffe” in its name — a decision that has drawn the ire of rugby league fans.

Following the announcement of a 17th team, attention has already turned to further expansion.

Many pundits believe the introduction of an 18th NRL team is inevitable and will help balance out fixturing issues that arise from having an odd number of teams in a competition.

Johns put forward the idea of the 18th team being a “Pacific nation side”, arguing it would be a way to harness the large number of talented rugby league players who have Pacific Island heritage.

“They’re talking about an 18th team,” he told SEN on Friday.

“Obviously, they can’t rush into it, but you can’t stay at 17 teams, 18 is the number.

“I think in some way, shape or form it (the 18th team) should be a Pacific nation side.

“It allows you to shore up that crucial area, it’s one of the heartlands of the game now as far as recruitment is concerned.

“Think of the side you could get out of Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Cook Islands.”

Johns said there are several potential locations where a Pacific team could be based, including Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.

“The nation that has got miles of money as far as oil money is concerned is Papua New Guinea,” he said.

“There’s been talk that they’ll build a great stadium.

“The logistical issue would be that they’ve got health issues in the country, but I’ll say this, how many countries in the world could you say that rugby league has turned the country around? It totally swung everything.”

“You could base the side if you had to in Darwin, and go there for the home games.

“You could even have a Pacific nations side based in Wellington that’s based around that was representative of the Pacific.”


Story first published on Foxsports Australia

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