The Dolphins have been guaranteed they will feature in Magic Round next year, in the clearest sign yet that the is going all in to support its 17th club.
According to the , the NRL has identified Magic Round – where all 16 teams play at Suncorp Stadium in over three days – as the perfect opportunity to help build a fanbase for Redcliffe.
The NRL newcomers are yet to land a marquee signing ahead of their inaugural season in the competition, but the league’s executives remain quietly confident the Dolphins will be a success and that Magic Round will provide the perfect set-up to announce their arrival.
Wayne Bennett’s Dolphins will feature in the NRL’s Magic Round next season
Having 17 teams in the competition, however, means one club will miss out and it will all likelihood be one of the New South Wales outfits.
As it was the case last year, the Bulldogs, Sea Eagles, Warriors, Titans, Storm, Sharks, Roosters and Tigers will all play a home game at Suncorp during Magic Round this season and each of them has received $250,000 to move one of their home games to Brisbane.
The NRL is reportedly considering giving those eight clubs first refusal on whether they want to host a game at Suncorp Stadium next year with the Broncos, Titans and Cowboys are set to join the Dolphins to complete a Queensland quartet.
That would mean either the Canberra Raiders or one of the remaining New South Wales clubs – the Rabbitohs, Dragons, Panthers and Eels could miss out on Magic Round.
Suncorp Stadium will again host Magic Round this season and next year
The Rabbitohs and Eels are among the NSW clubs who could miss out on Magic Round in 2023
Penrith and Melbourne will face off in a blockbuster clash on day two of Magic Round this season, with the three-day extravaganza kicking off on May 13 when the Bulldogs take on the Knights.
The Dolphins’ arrival will force the NRL into a series of major scheduling changes to accommodate an odd number of teams in the competition.
Clubs will play 26 rounds with two byes across the regular season and the standalone representative round will be scrapped as will the mid-season window for Test matches involving New Zealand and the Pacific Nations.
Meanwhile, State of Origin is set to return to its traditional Wednesday slot for all three games. With the exception of 2020, the second game of the interstate series has been played on a Sunday each year since 2018 and sunbet is scheduled for a Sunday this year as well.