The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, David Gallop has spoken frankly and openly about two of the biggest off field issues surrounding Rugby League, the salary cap and 16 teams.
Gallop said the NRL had to start looking at ways of rewarding the better run clubs and stop catering to lowest common denominator by setting the salary cap at $3.25 million and this move has seen Rugby League lose countless amounts of players to Rugby over the last three seasons so the time for change is now.
Gallop hinted the salary cap could be raised as high as $5 million dollars and the issue will be spoken about at length at a conference on the Central Coast in May. Any likely increase would not be implemented until the 2006 season, with the current agreements with NRL clubs not due to expire until the end of the 2005 season.
Gallop also spoke of expansion and relocation as a major issue confronting the game and has the desire to see the game taken to a truly national level.
"One day down the track, our broadcasters and sponsors will be attracted by us having a national flavour," Gallop said. "That's one of the reasons why I'm a supporter of Melbourne. I don't think anyone will be looking to add teams beyond perhaps a 16th team.
"The two mentioned the most are the Gold Coast and Central Coast and both have really compelling claims and, importantly, when they've had opportunities in the past 12 months they've made sure people have got out and supported rugby league.
"Wellington's another one. Rugby league has made huge inroads there from where we were a couple of years ago. To get 15,000 to a trial in Invercargill is pretty amazing. You couldn't discount Wellington."
Gallop also acknowledged that Sydney was top heavy with clubs trying to compete and has welcomed any proposals for re-loaction with a Gold Coast consortium travelling to Sydney this week to lobby the Sydney clubs about the merits of relocating to one of the country's growth areas.
At this stage it would be hard seeing a club willingly up and move and not isolate their supporter base but the possibility of a shared arrangement similar to that of the Wests Tigers and St George Illawarra may be an option worth pursuing.
Of all the Sydney clubs, Souths and Cronulla would be the two most likely to relocate as both clubs are in competition with two powerhouse clubs flush with huge finacial backing in the Sydney Roosters and St George Illawarra.
There is little chance of any of the clubs further west relocating as they all have massive leagues club backing and huge junior bases from which to draw talent.
It has taken the NRL five years to get it right, but it has been worth the wait with Rugby League about to make a quantum leap from an amatuer setup to one of a truly professional sporting organisation.