Jeff Dickinson-Fox reviews the campaign which saw Melbourne Storm crowned premiers in 2017.
3 days ago
The Independent Commission has begun stamping its authority as the game's all powerful decision making body.
And it has begun "differentiating" itself from the News/ARL Gallop led era...
For reasons I find inexplicable David Gallop has been entertaining any group that wants to get a licence to form a NRL club - working on the presumption that there will be expansion in 2015.
I hope he has been cautioning them that expansion is no longer his decision - that decision now rests with the Independent Commission.
And it also effectively rests with the games new "owners"...something some of the new team proponents, and sections of the media, have overlooked.
With the ARL and News exiting the game, someone has to be the ultimate owner...and the ultimate owner is the 16 NRL clubs.
And how many of the 16 clubs are enthusiastic about expansion? None!
That is why I was not surprised at the statement by IC Chairman, John Grant, cautioning that expansion should not be taken as a "given".
The simple reality is that a significant number of NRL clubs are in financial peril, and that includes one or two that are privately owned.
The IC is clearly going to look at the viability of all NRL clubs post the next television rights deal before it even considers expansion.
It remains my view that consolidation and re-location might even be on the cards.
Just how long can the Sharks survive, for example.
The NRL clubs are not going to see a "cake" currently divided 16 ways split 18 ways without a lot of hard thinking, and some resistance.
The AFL expansion was specifically designed to boost the game's television value...that won't be the case with with the NRL, as the deal has to be finalised this year...long before there will be even consideration of expansion.
The NRL clubs will undoubtedly be seeking as much an increase in the NRL grant to clubs as they can negotiate. Some won't survive without a significant increase.
The IC doesn't just have the financial welfare of the 16 clubs to consider.
It has to look at the state of the game in the bush, the regions, and growing outer urban areas.
And I suspect that when it looks it will be alarmed at what it sees.
The IC Chairman has urged caution on expansion with good reason - the game's new owners are going to take a lot of convincing to enable it, and the game faces significant grass roots challenges that will demand extra dollars being spent.
That adds up to expansion in 2015 being possible, but not certain.
The various proponents spending hard cash on bids should keep their money in their pockets - at least for now!