Lining up for his first NRL match in almost four months, Melbourne halfback Ryley Jacks has warned of the importance of getting game time for players outside the match-day squad.
Jacks was integral in the Storm’s upset win last round over previously unbeaten Newcastle, relishing another crack at the No.7 jersey after regular starter Jahrome Hughes broke his hand.
He scored the opening try and kept pace with Knights playmaker Mitchell Pearce to put his hand up to take on Nathan Cleary’s Penrith in another massive challenge on Friday night.
But Jacks said he found playing NRL after so long out tough going and believed it would get more difficult for players as the season without any match practice.
With no state leagues, Jacks hadn’t had a game since the Storm trial in New Zealand in late February.
“It was really tough, I was definitely feeling it out there in the second half,” Jacks said.
“You just don’t get the match fitness at training – you can train as hard as you can – but when it comes to the game it’s so different.
“I think it’s going to be tricky for whoever gets put in the NRL team if you’re not playing games.”
Jacks said it had been a mental challenge to keep training with the chance of playing only coming through injury or a poor performance from a teammate.
Storm coach Craig Bellamy has urged the NRL to make organising matches for fringe players a priority but there has so far been little headway.
“It’s very tough mentally,” Jacks said.
“You’re just sitting, training every weekend, and watching the boys play and you can’t do anything about it and you don’t know when you’re going to get your chance.”
Hughes will likely be sidelined for another two weeks but Jacks said he wasn’t thinking about his chances of keeping the halfback role permanently.
“I’ve been doing this for a few years where you come in for someone and try and make it your own, but I really just treat it like I’ve got a job to do this week.
“Whatever Craig wants to do he does and you can’t really control that and I’ve learnt that over the years – when you get your shot you’ve got to treat it one game at a time.”