Kent: Expansion carries a doggone cost
Expansion can't come soon enough for the Canterbury Bulldogs. Any chance to offload a few players is good by them.
The Bulldogs remain stifled by a salary cap with no wiggle room until 2021. This provides no solace for fans who bled through Saturday's 40-6 loss to the Warriors and are preparing for a little more.
And if performances continue the way they are, expansion might also be good for a few players as well.
Dean Pay walked into Belmore on Monday with the selection axe in his hand and menace on his mind.
Pay did Saturday as tough as anybody. The Dogs certainly did not play the way they had trained throughout the summer and the worst part was it was hard to explain beyond describing it, as one official put it, men playing boys.
Then he had a change of heart.
Pay was a no-nonsense kind of player, the kind where effort found reward and honesty in performance was valued.
So Pay decided his players needed the benefit of the doubt. The Bulldogs' squad named on Tuesday was without change from the team walloped by the Warriors.
There's the warning for the players.
If that isn't enough then heaven knows the Dogs are in a turnover frame of mind when it comes to roster management and any opportunity to move a few along will be acted upon quickly.
That the NRL is thinking expansion adds to their news.
Expansion is back on the agenda after NRL boss Todd Greenberg confirmed on League Life a week ago that he had "12 to 14 months" to come up with a decision for the game's future and then, on Monday, sharpened his focus on 100% Footy.
Greenberg was his elusive best. He is the Chinese meal of interviews. Half an hour later, you're suddenly hungry again for answers.
As Phil Gould lined them up Greenberg managed superbly, often answering questions with questions: "We are taking Origin to Perth this year, why don't we take more games in Perth? Is Brisbane ready for a game every weekend, not every second weekend?"
If the NRL does not know whether Brisbane, a city of 2.1 million in a rugby league heartland, is ready for a game every weekend then god help us.
Gould applied the full Nelson several times to lock Greenberg into an answer, often forced to interrupt as Greenberg distracted himself with more questions.
Expansion will get a sympathetic era out Belmore way. This is based on the simple logic that new teams need new players so why not take a few of ours?
Please. How the NRL does it is the big question.
At one point Greenberg mentioned the word "criteria", akin to a swear word in the game after what happened in the years following the Super League war.
Gould, who still carries the scars, quickly pulled him up and Greenberg diverted.
The first choice is whether to expand to 18 teams. It brings an extra game to sell to broadcasters, plus new markets.
The second option is to relocate a Sydney club and let those that remain breathe in a more forgiving market.
That Greenberg let slip "criteria" would indicate, at least early, that this is where the NRL boss's head is at.
It is a dangerous road, even though some declare it is the only road.
"Our game can't handle the spread of talent across 18 teams with two new franchises," Mark Riddell said on Macquarie Sports Radio. "Sydney is so dominated by teams that we need to move."
It is an opinion shared by many.
League Immortal Andrew Johns has said several times before he does not believe the game could spread the talent any further and it would be foolish to ignore his opinion.
Yet Manly legend Geoff Toovey told Macquarie Sports R that "without a doubt" there was enough talent to expand to 18 teams.
If only it were so easy. The only way the NRL can survive a Sydney team relocating is if the decision comes at the club's instigation.
Any hint of a push from headquarters and an angry mob will descend on League Central with torches lit.
No competition can expand, ever, without some dilution of talent. By definition, teams have to recruit from the next best available.
The question is not whether the game will be diluted but how adversely the product will be affected if expansion does occur.
In some ways the Bulldogs help make Riddell's point. You certainly wonder how some of them earned themselves NRL contracts.
But you can't grow without growing pains.