ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys says he has been shocked by the magnitude of the blowout scores in the NRL this year and has flagged a potential return for the national under-20s competition to help fix the problem.
The gap between the NRL’s best and worst teams has been stark this year and the winning margin in round four was the highest since round 16 in 2004.
The Sea Eagles are one of three teams without a win so far this season.Credit:Getty
“He uses the term vertical integration and that’s correct. There is not a stepping stone to the NRL and he’s right, at some point this was going to happen, in my view, and we are rectifying that,” V’landys said. “There’s no doubt the under 20s and participation is a massive factor and we are going to correct it.”
The under-20s competition was replaced by state-based competitions in NSW and Queensland and pushed the responsibility of development programs back onto the clubs.
Club bosses on Tuesday told the Herald the under-21s state comps – the Jersey Flegg and its Queensland colts equivalent – worked fine in developing young stars. They also voiced concerns about the NRL looking to bring back the under-20s competition, warning it was a costly endeavour, particularly after COVID-19.
The divide has also put into question NRL plans for a second Brisbane team, with a further move to introduce an 18th team, potentially in New Zealand.
“We want under 20s and reserve grade coming back as a precursor in front of the game,” V’landys said.
“The clubs that are successful are the ones that have maintained the best roster and the ones that have the best participation programs.
“It’s no coincidence that while our participation is down we are having this problem.”
Last weekend featured four major blowouts in the first four matches. The Panthers smashed the Sea Eagles 46-6 in the opening game on Thursday night, before the Rabbitohs beat the Bulldogs 38-0 in the afternoon on Good Friday. The Storm then crushed the Broncos 40-6 that night before the Sharks ran up the biggest score of the weekend in a 48-10 victory over the Cowboys on Saturday evening.
Parramatta and Penrith are unbeaten on top of the table, in contrast to North Queensland, Canterbury and Manly who are yet to win a game and all have points differentials of worse than minus 100.
“I didn’t expect it to be this magnitude,” V’landys said. “But you can’t just put it on one factor. The rules probably have a small part. The under 20s have got a small part. The rosters have a major part; it’s a multitude of factors.”
V’landys said the NRL was working towards a “future strategy” to ensure the divide would be rectified, which will also consider introducing transfer windows.
“It’s going to take some time but we’ve seen the ramifications of it,” he said.
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