Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien has called for a special competition among NRL clubs to keep players outside the top squad physically and mentally fit.
O’Brien says he fears for the mental health of players toiling away at training all year without being able to play a game, with NRL-aligned state competitions cancelled.
West Tigers coach Michael Maguire and the Bulldogs’ Dean Pay both proposed contact sessions with rival teams as an option to fill the void, but O’Brien would like actual matches.
It would give players outside the top 20 match fitness or allow them to test injuries as well as impress coaches to force their way into the first grade side.
“There was some talk and I don’t know where we are at now, but if we can get some clubs to join up and have a hybrid competition where your players are playing each other,” O’Brien said on Thursday.
“I’m really hopeful that is the case just for the sake of those guys who aren’t in your 20 each week.
“I really hope that we can come to some sort of arrangement where we can get clubs to join their spare players and get them some games cause it’s going to be heart-breaking watching kids train that hard all year and not get a game.”
O’Brien said mental health was a primary concern for all of his players this season as they deal with changes in the competition such as no crowds or possibly no home games for the Knights.
“The mental thing is what has me the most concerned – who manages it above the shoulders best this year is going to give themselves a real advantage,” he said.