Wayne Bennett wants more done for fringe NRL players this season with a rising number forced to make their first grade debuts without any real preparation.
Jack Johns became the fourth South Sydney player and 34th player across the board to debut this year on Saturday night, while there are many players getting call ups due to injuries.
All who have come in since round three having done so without reserve grade, with debutants this round having now gone more than four months without a game.
A second-tier competition during COVID-19 has been a talking point since the restart, but time is now running thin to get anything off the ground.
Clubs had played limited scrimmage sessions against rivals before matches last month, but that is now off the table with players back in hard bubbles.
Bennett sys while the situation is no one person or organisation’s fault, something has to be done.
“A lot of these players haven’t played a game of football, they’ve got nothing behind them at all.
“No match condition or anything.
“All the clubs are facing the same problems, it’s not just us. But it is a problem.”
Of Bennett’s team to go down to Canberra on Saturday, he had four players playing in just their third or fourth competitive game this year in all grades.
That number includes the opening round of the NSW Cup that was played in March, before that competition was abandoned.
The Raiders meanwhile have a serious issue, with their casualty ward now including at least nine players who would normally be in their first-choice 17.
“I think there is a solution but none of the clubs have worked hard enough to get an outcome,” Bennett said.
“We have just all sat back and been passive about it.
“Our club has been in the same boat, so I am not criticising anyone for it.
“At an Apollo meeting some time ago I came up with some suggestions there, but no one ever seemed to be keen on it.
“We’re all paying a price for it, but some are paying a bigger price than others. Because you may have more players who have played so little football.”