The Redcliffe Dolphins have officially been unveiled as the NRL's 17th team.
The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) has now confirmed that the Brisbane-based expansion hopefuls have won the bid to join the NRL in a few years time, seeing off some tough competition from the Brisbane Jets and Firehawks.
The Dolphins - who currently ply their trade in the Queensland Cup - will enter the competition in 2023, meaning the Premiership will expand to 26 rounds.
All 17 clubs will continue playing 24 games in the regular season, but will now receive two byes as well.
"Today is an exciting moment in the history of our game," ARLC chairman Peter V'landys said.
"The NRL Telstra Premiership will expand to 17 teams in 2023 and on behalf of the Commission I would like to congratulate The Dolphins on being granted the 17th licence.
"I would also like to acknowledge and thank the other bid teams for the work they put into their submissions. All three bids were of the highest calibre and highlight the strength of rugby league in Queensland.
"Rugby League is part of Queensland's DNA and to have 4 teams based in Queensland will further strengthen our game as the No.1 sport in the state.
The key to long term success is growth. By growing the NRL Telstra Premiership we create more fans, encourage more participants and increase commercial investment in rugby league.
"Expansion is also a really important part of our participation strategy. It will be a condition of the licence that the Dolphins spend $2 million every year on participation and growing the women's game in Southeast Queensland.
"Our focus over the next year is revitalising our participation strategy and The Dolphins will be an important part of that in Queensland."
The NRL also released its own statement ahead of a press conference held by CEO Andrew Abdo.
"The NRL Telstra Premiership will expand to 17 teams from the 2023 season after the Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) approved the grant of a new licence to "The Dolphins", the NRL said in a statement.
"The Commission approved both the expansion of the competition and The Dolphins as the successful bid for the 17th licence after accepting the recommendation of the Expansion Bid Assessment Committee.
"Importantly this decision is part of the ARLC's overall plan to grow the game in all parts of Queensland. Working with the Queensland Rugby League, the Brisbane Broncos, Gold Coast Titans, North Queensland Cowboys and now the Dolphins to ensure we have a presence across the State, investing in participation and pathways for men and women for the future.
"To encourage growth in participation and pathways across southeast Queensland, The Dolphins have agreed to invest $1 million per annum on grassroots rugby league and pathways as well as an additional $1 million per annum on women's rugby league pathways and development.
"The club will be required to submit an annual budget for Commission approval which sets out how the $2 million in funding will be spent each year.
"The expanded 17-team competition will see the NRL Telstra Premiership become a 26-Round competition with every team continuing to play 24 games.
"All teams will receive 2 byes during the season with the total number of regular season games increasing from 192 to 204."
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