MELBOURNE coach Craig Bellamy has called on the NRL to introduce bigger squads and pause the competition for State of Origin in exchange for adding the Auckland Nines and expanding the World Club Challenge over the next two seasons
After his captain Cameron Smith spoke out at a media conference in Leeds against the increasing demands on players, Bellamy told The Herald that something would have to give if the pre-season program was to be expanded.
NRL club chief executives will today vote on whether to approve a pre-season Nines tournament in Auckland which would carry up to $2.2 million in prize money.
A plan for the World Club Challenge to move to Australia next year and be expanded to six teams in 2015 is also awaiting the rubber stamp.
“They just can’t keep adding things on, jeez,” said Bellamy.
“The workload our elite players go through, it’s huge. If they’re going to add a nines tournament and they’re going to add the World Club Challenge, make it longer or whatever….
“They’re all obviously good concepts, without a doubt. The Indigenous game, I spent a week with the Indigenous team this year and I saw how important that game is to those guys so you do don’t want to be cutting that out either.
“At the end of the day, there’s got to be something to go – or, at Origin time let’s call the comp off for the three Origins and cut down the amount of games you play.
“We’re expecting too much of our elite players and at the end of the day, it will shorten their careers. You don’t want to be shortening the careers of our elite players because, with all due respect (to everyone else), that’s what people come to see.
“It’s great having all these new different ideas for different formats of different parts of our game but it’s got to stop somewhere or let’s get bigger squads and be able to rotate the players.
“But that’s going to cost money.”
Earlier, Australia captain Smith told a media conference: “It’s a pretty touchy subject at the moment, particularly in Australia.
“Someone told me last week that if I stay fit and I’m playing most games, I’ll be close to playing 40 matches this year. I believe the World Cup final is on the 30th of November.
“We’ve got to be careful trying to add in all these new competitions and new matches because the way the game is going at the moment …. It’s getting faster and faster, guys are getting bigger and stronger and it’s taking its toll on players.
“If you want to see the elite players in the game for a long time, then I don’t think you want to be tampering too much with workloads and adding games here and there.
“If the Nines are introduced, something else has to give. Maybe the indigenous game. But the All Star game that we play, it’s a great concept and all the players down in Australia love being part of it.
Rival captain Kevin Sinfield, however, said he supported pausing Super League for a weekend in 2015 for a six-team WCC. (Players) are still only playing one game. You could take it to any part of the world and sell rugby league – I’m all for it,” he said.
The Storm will name their team tonight, Australian time, while Leeds have confirmed Zac Hardaker (broken thumb) and Ryan Bailey (knee) will miss Friday’s match at Headingley, which is close to being a 20,400 sellout.
Kylie Leuluai is likely to come in at prop, with Kallum Watkins a probable custodian. Gold Coast import Joe Vickery (leg) is an outside chance of an unlikely return after being ruled out for six weeks a fortnight ago, coach Brian McDermott said
It has emerged that a drugs test in London referred to by fullback Billy Slater was part of “blood profiling” being undertaken by the Australian Sports Drug Authority.
Centre Will Chambers tweeted: “Perfect start to my trip just got woken up by drug tester asking for my blood.”
The NRL and ASADA are increasing the number of blood tests this year, stepping up the battle against Human Growth Hormone and creating a “bank” of biological profiles of players.
England hooker Terry Newton was the first athlete in the world to test positive to HGH and committed suicide at age 31 in 2010.
And Bellamy confirmed his disappointment at a game against London last week being scuppered by politics. “We certainly would have preferred to play a game here – without a doubt,” he said.
The Storm will on Wednesday, Australian time, stage an opposed session against Halifax – five-eighth Gareth Widdop’s home town club.
Filed for SYDNEY MORNING HERALD