Melbourne Storm legend Billy Slater has warned the NRL that while he has no problem with the competition expanding, talent development must be addressed before a 17th franchise enters the league.
The three teams competing to become the next expansion club - Brisbane Jets, Brisbane Firehawks and Redcliffe Dolphins - today addressed the commission, putting forward their final bids to be granted NRL licenses.
It's understood the NRL has targetted 2023-2024 for the next franchise to officially be part of the competition.
Slater said he hoped Redcliffe are handed the honour, but he believes the NRL has a lot of work in front of it before a team can join the league.
The former Kangaroos and Maroons fullback fears the lack of reserve-grade competition, which has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, will impact the "talent pool" coming through.
"I'm not against expansion and if I had to pick one of those teams, and I don't know a whole lot about them, but I know Redcliffe are an established, organised outfit already," he told 2GB's Wide World of Sports' radio.
"They've got a big leagues club and they're financially stable. They've already taken a few NRL games over to Redcliffe over the last couple of weeks. If I'm going to pick one I would push for them.
"The big problem needs to be addressed in terms of developing our talent. Now, we haven't had any reserve-grade football over the last two seasons, so that's certainly going to contribute to the talent pool and how it's being developed.
"You have a look at some of these teams on the bottom of the ladder: the Broncos, Cowboys, Bulldogs and the Tigers. You take three of the best players out of those teams, well you're going to weaken the competition, as well.
"I'm not against expansion, but the NRL needs to address this, the development of our talent, and bring those weaker clubs up. This is only going to dilute it."
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Slater says it's vital the NRL doesn't rely on time to solve the issues to players coming through, rather they put the "effort into development" now.
"Time is the thing that's not going to address these problems; it's focus and energy into those areas that is to going to address these problems," he added.
"If we just say, 'Let's wait another 12 months and the talent will come through' ... You've got to put time and effort into development.
"You've got to put time and effort into players coming through, bringing them up to NRL standard, so that when they do take to the field, they're at that NRL quality.
"There are a number of players playing in the NRL that aren't there yet, so if we're going to put another 30 players on a list, they're going to have to come from somewhere and they're going to come from the current NRL clubs."
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