NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo says he doesn't have any issues with clubs resting players for the final round of the regular season, despite Craig Bellamy calling for a 'bye' round so fans don't cry foul that they've been dudded by some of the teams named. The issue is particularly glaring for the Broncos and Storm clash on Thursday night, with both clubs resting multiple big-name stars.
Kevin Walters has opted to give Reece Walsh, Payne Haas, Selwyn Cobbo, Ezra Mamn and Kurt Capewell a rest, while Craig Bellamy won't use Cameron Munster, Harry Grant or Nick Meaney (among others), although Ryan Papenhuyzen will make his first start at fullback in over 12 months. The Broncos-Storm clash was shaping up as a final-round blockbuster, but will now be resemble more of a reserve grade game.
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On Tuesday, fans who had already bought tickets to the game were blowing up, claiming they'd been 'cheated' and 'robbed' of what would have been a fantastic spectacle between the first and fourth-placed teams. But according to Abdo, the clubs are well within their rights to rest players ahead of the finals.
“Each coach, team and club will set their strategies for who they are playing and the combinations,” Abdo said. “That‘s a call they have to live and die by, and that’s a call that is theirs to make.
“I'm yet to witness an NRL game that isn’t exciting and compelling. You’ll have players making their NRL debuts this weekend. I’m not concerned at all that we won’t have eight exciting games.”
However, on Wednesday, Bellamy said he wouldn't have rested the plethora of players against the Broncos on Thursday night if there was a rest week so players could recover for finals footy. “I think it would be a good idea,” Bellamy said.
“Tomorrow, in our team, there would be more players playing. We’ve got some injured guys but there would be more players who have played first grade (that) would (play). The Broncos would be saying the same.
“Perhaps we should look at some other way of not letting that happen, and having that week off before the finals would be a way to have more players playing in the last round.”
The Warriors are also resting a plethora of players because they won't host a first-week finals game whether they finish third or fourth. Addin Fonua-Blake, Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad, Dallin Watene-Zelezniak, Shaun Johnson and Wayde Egan will all sit out their trip to face the Dolphins, while captain Tohu Harris is also out with a back injury.
NRL world reacts to spate of rested players for final round
Discussing the situation on Tuesday, Yahoo Sport Australia writer Adam Lucius said the NRL should play all the final-round games at the same time like we see in the English Premier League. Roosters and Rabbitohs great Bryan Fletcher said it was 'inevitable' that the NRL will adopt a bye-round before the finals like the AFL currently has.
“It’s inevitable that the NRL will follow the AFL in the sense that we’ve got the concussion rule, we’ve got the stand-down protocol that’s 11 days, so I think it will come in, you’ll get a week off before the semi-finals," Fletcher said on 'The Back Page'. Former Sydney Swans player Ryan Fitzgerald said the final round of the NRL is so valuable for the league because there is no AFL on, but bemoaned the fact "you’re watching a 'ressies' side”.
Manly great Mark Carroll is one person who doesn't want to see the final-round bye, saying: “I’m over the byes, the year is long enough. They’ve had three byes this year, it’s unheard of. I don’t think we’ve ever had that. As a player, you don’t want to be resting. It’s all about momentum. You want to be coming into the semi-finals with momentum but also consistency.”
Gorden Tallis declared on NRL 360 that the Broncos had earned the right to rest their big guns. “Whether they get first or second, they get a home final,” he said. “If you’ve got a niggle and you don’t have to win a game to get into the top four or the top eight, you rest your players.”
The Broncos' decision has opened the door for the Panthers to swoop back in and claim the minor premiership after Brisbane leap-frogged them on the ladder last weekend. The Panthers will take the JJ Giltinan Shield if the Broncos lose and they beat the Cowboys.
Surprisingly, Ivan Cleary has opted against resting his big guns (for now), naming son Nathan and recalling Dylan Edwards, Sunia Turuva and Scott Sorensen after sitting them out last week. The Panthers will be keen to avoid heading into the finals with back-to-back losses after their shock defeat to Parramatta last week.
I feel cheated almost a Qcup game now - was so looking fwd to this game -hardly missed a home game in 34 years but not sure ill b turning up now - guess Broncs dont care they got my money as a member anyway
— Doug Roberts (@dmroberts1) August 28, 2023
Wont be worth watching. @NRL must do something about this. Makes the game a farce. Fans being ripped off
— Paul (@ardmorelad) August 28, 2023
Just too bad AFL has been doing it for years now, it should happen but NRL bosses won't want to be seen following their lead.
— Adam Strong (@1320_Race_Fan) August 29, 2023
They really need a final round bye, or to limit the number of changes a team can make. It is terrible for the competition and the NRL is lucky the Panthers are not resting everyone. If they gave the Cowboys an easy game it would have made a mockery of competition integrity.
— RealTronaldDump Parody (@Tronald_J_Dump1) August 29, 2023
So are the same #NRL Clubs that are unhappy #Origin impacts player availability for six weeks the same ones resting 4/5ths of their sides for Round 27?
You either want your players available or you don't... right?
— The NRL Tweet (@NRLTweet) August 29, 2023
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