Stripped: Controversial call that could spark NRL war
NRL teams could be stripped of the competition points they won in the opening two rounds of the season under a highly controversial proposal to restart the premiership with two conferences.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal a deduction of points is a serious option being considered by NRL powerbrokers that will outrage fans of undefeated teams Parramatta, Newcastle, Canberra, Brisbane, Melbourne and Penrith.
And in another shock, the St George Illawarra Dragons could be left out of the Sydney clubs' conference and be forced to join the out-of-town clubs in a Queensland-based 'northern' conference.
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League legend Wayne Pearce, who heads up Project Apollo that is analysing various structures and schedules for the rest of the season, admits clubs could lose their points from the opening rounds.
"There are a couple of arguments we need to consider," Pearce said.
"Players worked their butts off in the off season and won games in the first two rounds.
"But if it's a different competition format and we start all over again … do they keep them?
"It's a key point we'll be discussing on Thursday then passing onto the commission to make the final decision."
Fuelling the fire is the fact Roosters coach Trent Robinson and South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett are both heavily involved in advisory roles with Project Apollo.
The Roosters have not won a game and the Rabbitohs are one from two.
The two champion coaches met with commission chairman Peter V'landys on Monday and both backed the conference system.
However it has been established they will not be involved in the talks about the competition points.
Under the two conference system, News Corp understands St George Illawarra would be left to join the out-of-Sydney clubs - the Cowboys, Broncos, Titans, Knights, Raiders, Warriors and Storm - in Queensland at a venue still to be determined.
The Sydney clubs would be based at Sydney Olympic Park.
For player welfare reasons, the regular season would be played over only seven weeks because it is considered unreasonable to have players away from their families and loved ones for any longer.
Throw in State of Origin and the finals and it could be only a 14-week season.
"That's better than us not playing at all," said one official. "To play each other twice and have players in isolation for 14 weeks is going to create welfare issues."
The Daily Telegraph contacted Raiders coach Ricky Stuart to get his reaction to the points proposal.
"I don't believe this will be the case as the NRL told us earlier the first two rounds would stand," Stuart said.
BELOW: SEE THE POTENTIAL CONFERENCES AND REVISED SCHEDULE
"If they were to go back on this and create a whole new competition it is totally unfair to every team that prepared for the first two games and won competition points.
"I promise you I would fight this for my players, our sponsors and every single Raiders fan.
"I'm positive Trent Robinson who is on the innovations committee understands how hard players work in preparation for the start of the season and deserve their results."
Broncos coach Anthony Seibold, whose team is also undefeated in 2020, backed Stuart.
"Surely that's not right," Seibold said.
"For the integrity of the competition the first two games need to be counted. Obviously I'm going to say that because we've won two games but it's the fair way."
Melbourne Storm coach Craig Bellamy hates the idea of wiping out the first two rounds.
"I was warned a couple of weeks ago this could happen and it's not right," Bellamy said
"You can't just say they're null and void. We should just continue the season.
"Those first two weeks were part of the competition and we worked really hard to get two away wins.
"What about the fans - we want them to continue paying membership but then take competition points off them. You can't."
7 week regular season
4 week finals
3 weeks Origin
Total: 14 week season
Originally published as Stripped: controversial call that could spark NRL war