NRL to look at wildcard weekend before finals

James Tedesco celebrates with supporters after the Roosters 2018 NRL Grand final win in Sydney Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

The NRL is considering the introduction of a wildcard weekend from 2020 which would see 10 teams advance from the competition's regular season.

NRL bosses called club chief executives on Monday to outline the idea and seek feedback, with a decision to be made in the coming months.

Under the proposal, seventh would play 10th in the week following round 25 and eighth would face ninth, with the winners joining the top-six in the current finals system the following week.

The move would be the biggest change to the finals since the top-eight system was introduced in the 1990s, and would be used to combat dead rubbers at the end of the season.

"There's some work we're doing behind the scenes, which today we're starting to brief some people on including our clubs about a different type of format from our finals series," NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg said.

"It's very much exploring it as a concept rather than signing it off."

Matches played in the wildcard weekend could be played at the hosts' suburban grounds, and the higher-ranked winner would play sixth in the first week of the finals with the lower-ranked winner to play fifth.

The NRL believe it would also give a clear advantage to teams finishing in the top six of the competition, allowing them an extra week to rest their players.

However they accept it would raise questions over the fact 65 per cent of teams would advance past the final round, and that 10th finished a full 10 points behind eighth last year.

"It's probably not fair on the face of it, but in any finals system it's not fair in itself," head of football Graham Annesley said.

"Because you are playing a competition over four weeks involving eight teams where not everyone plays each other. All finals systems are inherently unfair to some degree.

"It's all a balancing act."

According to NRL figures, the introduction of the wildcard weekend would reduce dead matches - featuring a team that cannot make the finals - from 22 to 13 based on the last 11 years.

Those figures also show there is a decline of around 3,300 in crowd numbers for those games, as well as an eight per cent drop in television ratings.

"It's all intended to try and maintain interest in the competition for the participants, for our fans and members and people who come through the gates each week," Annesley said.

HOW IT WOULD WORK:

Wildcard weekend: 7th v 10th, 8th v 9th

Finals week one: 5th v Wildcard 2, 6th vs Wildcard 1.

Normal finals to follow.