The NRL has begun discussions on entering a Perth franchise into the NSW Cup within three years, according to Western Australia NRL boss John Sackson.
In the clearest sign yet of a possible expansion in Perth, it is understood the governing body is exploring the idea of including a team from the west in the under-20s competition over the next two years.
The next aim would be submitting a reserve grade outfit the following year, before evolving into a possible NRL team by the time the broadcast deal ends in 2022.
"For the past six-eight months, there has been a discussion on a possible inclusion of an under-20s team over the next two years," Sackson told AAP.
The revelation came in the same week the likely future ARL Commission chairman Peter Beattie declared NRL expansion should firmly be back on the agenda.
Beattie is widely expected to replace outgoing chairman John Grant next month on a reconstructed 10-person commission.
Despite being chairman of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, the former Queensland premier is expected to attend the NRL season-opening double-header at Perth's new stadium.
Sackson has long been sceptical of any talk surrounding the possibility of reintroducing a NRL team in a city that hasn't boasted a side in the top competition since the Western Reds folded in 1997.
A NRL spokesperson denied there had been any formal talks involving a future Perth team, however the NSWRL confirmed the governing body was exploring the avenues.
Sackson took Beattie's comments to be genuine.
"Over the past eight years, there have been plenty of positive support for the re-entry of an elite franchise in Perth," Sackson said.
"It's reflected in winning national fan polls or opinions from respected stakeholders of the game including media, past and present players, coaches and NRL club executives.
"The difference here is that such comments from the man touted as the next head of the Commission - the man that could become the most powerful and influential figure in the game - could certainly be considered more meaningful."
Perth has been served by having a West Coast Pirates team in the NSW under-18s competition since 2010, which has so far yielded three NRL graduates.
But the NRL is looking at a pathway to join the elite competition, after the likely inclusion of Fiji in the NSW Cup next year.
"The next step would be the following year, possibly for a team competing in the NSW state cup as the future of the game is developed," Sackson said.
"Obviously, there are lots of issues, including funding and all those sorts of things that have to be dealt with to make things like that a reality."