'Struggling mentally': Veteran coaches expose sad NRL truth

Craig Bellamy and Wayne Bennett are both concerned by the current lack of reserve grade footy. Pic: Getty

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy fears for the mental health of some of his fringe players and says organising NRL reserve-grade trial matches must be a priority.

Bellamy and fellow veteran coach Wayne Bennett, whose teams will meet in Melbourne on Friday night, both called on the NRL to do more for players outside the match-day squad.

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NRL head of football Graham Annesley says organising second-tier games, which was floated following the cancellation of Canterbury Cup and Queensland Cup competitions for 2020, will be considered later this month.

Bellamy says some players, particularly those away from family and friends, are already struggling.

"Those fringe guys, we've got to get them back playing footy; we've got to find a way," he said on Thursday.

"Not only will it be harder for them playing first grade as we go on ... you're not going to take lightly dropping someone and putting someone in who hasn't played for six or eight weeks.

"The other thing is that some of those guys aren't going to see an opportunity to play so how's their mental wellbeing going to go through that.

"If they've got nothing to look forward to as far as footy ... it's going to be real hard for those guys to stay up and about.

'We've seen a couple of signs that a few of our blokes that they're struggling mentally."

Craig Bellamy feels for his fringe players who are not allowed to attend matches. Pic: Getty

Coaches want restrictions eased for fringe players

Bennett said it was in "everybody's best interest" that the players played.

"It doesn't have to be a weekly competition or even 13 on 13 but they need to play on a reasonably regularly basis," Bennett said.

Bellamy said he'd spoken to Newcastle and the Warriors about combining to form a team against a joint line-up from two or three Sydney teams but it ran into a brickwall due to the NRL's strict biosecurity rules.

The same restrictions stopped a proposal for regular matches against the Raiders.

Bellamy said players outside the 21 named each week weren't even allowed to go to the stadium to watch the match, and he believed those restrictions should be relaxed.

"We need to include those guys - they are here all week training so why can't they come and at least watch the game," he said.

"I don't want to be critical of the rules but they're isolated from the team on game day which isn't right."