NRL closer to giving fringe players a game

Scott Bailey
·2-min read

Fringe NRL players could be tested for COVID-19 after playing reserve grade games next year in a bid to ensure they don't spend another season on the sidelines.

The NSW Rugby League will outline their plans for a return to reserve grade this week, after the second-tier competition was abandoned after one round in 2020.

The chief problem was how to manage players going out of the NRL bubble to play in the reserve grade competition, where semi-professionals weren't under the same guidelines.

It meant that several players did not feature in a match again this year after March, with six clubs not using their full 30 players at any time during the season.

To solve that, the NRL and state bodies are working through several different options on how to ensure players not selected in first grade can play reserves.

"One of the options is maybe a player coming out of the bubble plays a game, and then the next day has a test," NSWRL boss David Trodden told AAP.

"And they have to provide a negative result prior to coming back into the bubble.

"There are a few different alternatives being discussed at the moment.

"But we're really confident that at least one of those alternatives will be agreed on.

"There is definitely a will from the NRL for our second-tier competition and the QRL's second-tier competition to go ahead."

Next year's competition will only include NSW-based teams, with the Warriors unable to join due to uncertainty over New Zealand's borders.

Jersey Flegg will also return to an under-21s competition, while more regional teams could feature in the third-tier Ron Massey Cup after they featured in the one-off Presidents' Cup this year.

The NSWRL managed to complete that competition without issue in 2020, leaving it confident in its biosecurity guidelines.

Under their protocols, any person who showed any sign of illness could not train or play while social distancing was also employed with limits at training and confined spaces.

It was also recommended for all players to have the flu shot along with a number of other COVID-compliant measures.

"We found this year that our own biosecurity stuff worked really well for the competitions we did run," Trodden said.

"I think everyone has learned a huge amount from this year, and it's safe to run competitions in a safe way as long as people follow the protocols.

"So taking that and applying it to next year, there's no reason why we shouldn't able to run a competition in a really safe fashion and ensure the integrity of the NRL bubble is protected."