Players get more rest with 17th NRL team

By Scott Bailey
Moreton Daily Stadium in Redcliffe will host some Dolphins games when they join the NRL in 2023. (AAP)

The NRL will rotate its bye allocations each year and give State of Origin players at least one scheduled week off as part of the new 17-team schedule.

The introduction of the Dolphins for 2023 marked the league's first expansion in 16 years, and with it the biggest change to the competition's schedule since 2007.

The finer details are likely to be set after the free-to-air television rights are finalised, with the league inching closer towards a new deal.

That will include whether the league continues with a stand-alone Origin, or returns the Sunday night fixture to Wednesday night as expected.

Regardless, the number of regular season games will increase by 12, with the competition now to be played over 26 rounds.

Clubs will be allocated two byes, with about half the teams receiving one in the week before an Origin match.

In turn the number of weekends where there are less than eight games will drop from six to as low as two, depending on the fate of the stand-alone Origin.

Teams will also have one bye outside of the Origin period, meaning representative players have a guaranteed week off that has been missing for the past four years.

The NRL will rotate when clubs have that bye each year over a five-year period, to create overall fairness in terms of rest in the lead-up to the finals.

Meanwhile, the expansion to 17 teams will give the NRL more space on five-day turnarounds, in a bid to drop the figure even lower than 25 - after it was as high as 43 in 2016.

Head office will also bank on 12 Queensland rivalry matches between Brisbane, Gold Coast, North Queensland and the Dolphins, an increase from six in 2021.


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