Why the NRL must defy Channel 9
The NRL doesn't want an asterisk alongside the 2020 premiership winners on the game's grand final honour roll.
For this reason, a 20-round season rather than Channel 9's preference for 17 weeks is the preferred option when broadcast negotiations continue on Monday.
Independent commission boss Peter V'landys insists the integrity of the competition is more important than anything else, even the financial benefits from playing 20 rounds.
"Our first priority is to make the competition fair and equitable," V'landys said. "It's got to be credible and authentic.
"You don't want an asterisk next to the grand final winner because there wasn't a sufficient opportunity for all teams to get into the top eight.
"It is absolutely crucial that every club has that chance to play finals football.
"That's for the players and the fans. It's got to be realistic they can make it. It's such an important ingredient in all our negotiations."
V'landys has already ruled out the scrapping of competition points from the opening two rounds.
It is why he has the full support of the clubs and the RLPA in trying to extend the season for as long as possible. He first wanted 22 rounds but has softened slightly to 20 weeks.
The problem has been the possibility of running into a scheduling clash with cricket's T20 World Cup that runs from mid-October to mid-November.
However, there are now suggestions, albeit unconfirmed, that the World Cup will be delayed until February next year.
South Sydney Rabbitohs chief executive Blake Solly agrees 20 rounds is the favoured option.
"The extra three rounds would definitely be welcomed by the clubs," he said.
"Clearly everyone is supportive of Peter and Andrew (Abdo, the interim NRL CEO) producing the best outcome and everyone has to be united behind them.
"For the overall integrity of the competition, if you land at 20, no one can complain."
Another crucial point is that fans will remain engaged for longer if their team has a chance of playing in the finals. It would have a detrimental effect on TV ratings if their teams are knocked out of contention three weeks earlier.
RLPA boss Clint Newton says the preference for the players is also the longer version of 20 rounds.
"The players are absolutely willing to play as many matches as possible, even if it's into November with State of Origin," Newton said.
"Our philosophy has always been to fulfil our obligations so the longer option is preferred.
"Ultimately it is the view of the players whatever we can do to play as many matches as possible is for the benefit of the clubs, the game and the fans.
"It's not a crack at the broadcasters - it's just our preference."
Newton agrees the integrity of the completion is also enhanced
"If the priority is the legitimacy of the competition, the more rounds we play the better.
It is to what we originally had," he said.
The 20-round option would also minimise the brutal financial impact of a shortened season.
Current broadcast fees are worth $13 million each weekend.
Even without ticket sales, there is also the consideration of the extra income from ground advertising and the value of jersey sponsorship over an extra three rounds.
Originally published as Why the NRL must defy Channel 9