Women’s State of Origin will expand to a multi-game series in 2023 but mid-year Pacific Tests will be scrapped as part of the NRL’s new schedule.
The NRL’s new TV five-year deal with Nine Entertainment from 2023 was trumpeted as a big win on Monday, with an increase to beyond pre-pandemic levels of $130 million per year.
The biggest structural change will come with lucrative men’s Origin to return to three Wednesday nights, however, that comes with other implications.
The stand-alone Sunday night match for Game II had allowed for a mid-season representative weekend, with Pacific Tests traditionally played on the Saturday and women’s Origin on the Friday.
The mid-year Tests had risen in popularity prior to the pandemic, but were not played during the past two seasons.
A revival is being considered for 2022 depending on border situations but that will be the last time they are held mid-season.
“We care very much about the international game,” NRL CEO Andrew Abdo told AAP.
“We are very committed to international football, but an international football window that happens in October and November makes more sense for everyone.
“It’s where we can standardise and play meaningful and regular competitions at the back end of the season.”
The movement of international games means players will no longer need to pick between playing for their Pacific nation or state.
Women’s Origin will also have to move somewhat, however, Abdo confirmed that would come with more games.
Head office will keenly follow how the postponed 2021 campaign plays out next year — as they decide when best to play the NRLW season.
The delayed 2021 competition will be staged between February and April next year, while the 2022 season will run from August to October as usual.
“We get the benefit next year of testing a competition at the early part of the year,” Abdo said.
“As we grow those number of teams, we will start to think about when the best place is to hold the NRLW competition (beyond 2022).
“In terms of the women’s State of Origin, we are very much looking at how we can move from one match to two or three.
“In 2023 we will probably be at at least a two-match series or potentially a three-match series.”
Meanwhile, the NRL will consider how to best rotate byes for each club every year, in a bid to improve fairness.
With a 17-team competition, only a maximum of 12 teams will be able to have byes in the weekends before Origin games.
One side will have to go through the whole seven-week period without a bye.
“We want to make sure we are balancing the byes across teams across the (five-year) cycle,” Abdo said.
“The standalone Origin or rep round was designed to help manage workload.
“But unfortunately because we were playing Origin and Tests, a lot of the NRL players were still playing football.
“Whereas now teams can have two byes over the same length season.”