NRL considers grand final shake-up

The NRL will consider having a two-week build-up to future grand finals in a bid to turn the NRL All Stars match into an event similar to the NFL's Pro Bowl.

NRL officials will meet next week to discuss the scheduling of the 2015 season, which will include the Auckland Nines, World Club Challenge and the All Stars match.

The idea of stretching grand final week into a two-week preparation has already been floated by Indigenous All Stars playmaker Johnathan Thurston.

The NFL Pro Bowl, which includes players not involved in the Super Bowl, is played a week before the showpiece event. It is understood Thurston isn't the only player who is behind the concept, with players across several clubs backing the idea of playing the All Stars in October.

NRL head of football Todd Greenberg, who is in charge of the game's scheduling, said it was an option that would be considered at next week's meeting.

"It's possible for 2015, but it would take a huge amount of work and a lot of negotiation and consultation," he said.

"We've always said we'll look at things. You also have to understand that we're in the middle of a broadcast deal that goes through to '17. There are minimum applications that have to go with that. What we've always done is negotiated and talked with the players' union and the players and the clubs, so we're always open to new ideas like this weekend has shown.

"We'd look at it. We've got this, we've got All Stars to put back in the calendar as well. We haven't looked at dates but we'll do that after this weekend."

Grand final week is a busy time for clubs competing for the premiership trophy, jam-packed full of media, corporate and social commitments.

Most teams have to reduce their training workload due to the requirements of grand final week, but a two-week build-up to the decider would allow clubs to have an extended preparation.

The NRL All Stars was previously played as the official opening to the NRL season, but was taken out of this year's calendar because of the demand on players who played in the World Cup in November.

The Auckland Nines is locked in for the next four years, and given the success of the sold-out tournament at the weekend, it's unlikely the NRL will want to tinker with the event's schedule.

But with Eden Park's Cricket World Cup commitments next year – which runs in Australia and New Zealand from February 14 to March 29 – it is understood the Nines will have to be played in January.

"Whether they could do it sort of like the NFL – obviously the grand final teams have a week off and all the players who aren't playing in that game can be chosen for the All Stars that week," Thurston told NRL.com last month.

There is also a push to play a World Club Challenge series, which would involve six teams from the NRL and English Super Leagues, however the success of the Nines and the return of the All Stars match could put plans on hold.

The NRL is keen to expand the Nines tournament, with Super League clubs showing interest, and has flagged the idea of turning it into a six-week summer circuit to rival cricket's Big Bash League.

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