The Illawarra and Group Seven regions will be grouped together as part of the NSW Rugby League's 'One State' strategic plan, while the governing body is also seeking expressions of interest in a state-wide Ron Massey Cup.
In a historic shift for the game, Illawarra and Group Seven will be brought together as one part of a broader 'Southern Corridor' that includes St George and Cronulla. The structure of next year's senior competitions remains to be seen, but they will no longer be restricted by former Country Rugby League boundaries.
The plan will also see the creation of a state-wide Ron Massey Cup modelled on the Presidents Cup trialled this year as the COVID pandemic wreaked havoc on local competitions. Wests and Thirroul both took part in the Presidents Cup this season, without paying players, after plans for an Illawarra competition fell over in May.
It saw them take on Ron Massey regulars Hills District, Wentworthville, Glebe-Burwood and North Sydney. The competition also included eventual premiers Maitland - with the Newcastle competition also on hiatus - while bush clubs Dubbo CYMS and Western Rams also took part.
Helensburgh also reached the finals of the second-tier Sydney Shield competition, with the club giving consideration to remaining in the competition beyond this year. The success of both state competitions has prompted the governing body to announce a plan that's been afoot since last year's merger with CRL.
"The opportunity to come together with the CRL at the end of 2019 presented us with a unique chance to have a look at the way rugby league was being administered across the state and to determine if there were any areas where it could potentially be improved," NSWRL chief executive Dave Trodden said in announcing the plan on Monday.
The state competition will be played under a salary cap, with the NSWRL to help foot the bill for the travel costs required in a competition that will include the Kaiviti Silktails from Fiji - who are definite starters.
Clubs that do contest the state competition will be required to field a side in their home zone. The NSWRL is calling for expressions of interest for the new competition, though Illawarra clubs are split on the prospect.
Wests president Mat Reh said the Devils enjoyed their time in the state cup this season and have a preliminary interest in taking part in 2021.
"We're not saying no, the experience we had with the NSW Rugby League has been a thousand per cent more professional and the Wests club is definitely interested," Reh said.
"[The NSWRL] have already had some talks with us and we've spoken to the coaches and we're definitely interested. We're just waiting for some more information on salary cap and funding, once that's all laid out for all leagues we'll come with a game plan ourselves."
The governing body will reach out to other Illawarra clubs, with Thirroul considering their options after just missing the finals this season. Collegians will be looking to return the field next year after sitting 2020 out amid the pandemic, but have no interest in any state-wide competition.
"To answer the question in the short-term, definitely not," Collies official Bruce Prior said.
"We haven't had a [board] meeting to discuss anything like that, but our position would be that, in no way, would we be interested in going anywhere outside our local competition."
Illawarra and Group Seven already run merged junior competitions, while combined representative sides represent the 'Greater Southern' region. The IDRL has also previously run under 19s competitions with sides from the Shire.