TOWNSVILLE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 28: Titans coach Justin Holbrook looks on during a media interview before the start of the round three NRL match between the North Queensland Cowboys and the Gold Coast Titans at QCB Stadium on March 28, 2021, in Townsville, Australia. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Titans coach Justin Holbrook has called for NRL squads sizes to be increased ahead of the 2022 season, with the COVID-19 pandemic set to see a plethora of players sidelined throughout the course of the campaign.

More than half of Gold Coast's squad were absent from their return to training last week as 23 players from Holbrook's side were in isolation as either a positive case or a close contact.

All 16 clubs have been directly impacted by the recent spike in cases, with the Bulldogs having to cancel a midweek training session due to their thinned numbers.

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With coaches believing they will be without several players each round for the season ahead, Holbrook believes the NRL must be "flexible" and allow expansion for squad numbers, drawing attention to the ever-changing situation the Big Bash League is facing.

"I think the bigger squad is definitely the way to go," Holbrook said, via The Canberra Times

"You look at the BBL now and you probably could get a game yourself.

"We've got to be flexible and adaptable.

"All we want - we want the season to go ahead and we want to play every week as scheduled, so however that has to happen I'm sure Peter V'Landys and all those guys will work hard to make it happen."

Clubs are currently preparing for their pair of pre-season trial matches next month, which usually give emerging talents and trial players an opportunity to prove their worth to their respective club's systems.

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With squad numbers already expected to be compromised, this year's pre-season matches are likely to see last lines on show, with first-grade players still tipped to be absent due to the league's health and safety protocols.

The RLPA and the NRL have already held crucial talks in regards to the league's recent implementation of restrictions on its players, which received well-documented backlash from several high-profile stars.

Players have made it clear that biosecurity bubbles are a non-negotiable after having to spend time in hubs across the past two seasons.

Holbrook is of the opinion that the NRL's strong vaccine rates will be a key factor in the competition not having to force players back into bubbles this year.

"The beauty of the vaccinations and the fact that people aren't getting rushed to hospital and ICU, the majority of them now live literally just at home with the flu, once we get closer to the season and we realise that, I don't think we'll have to go back into those heavy bubble situations," Holbrook said.

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"I think it'll literally be while you're infectious for three days you're not around and then you're back in.

"That is where I'd like it to get to and I think a lot of common sense will come into it."

The Titans are expected to regain further players following their isolation periods ending, with as many as 12 players having returned to training on Thursday alone.

 

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1 COMMENT

  1. Thinking about it, there might be some short and long term benefits to having these extended squads. With the cancellations to the of the NSW and Q Cup over the last few years it has no doubt hindered the development and subsequently lost of few of the up and comers for their need to earn an income. With covid inevitably affecting all squads at some point, this does provide an opportunity to blood a few young guys to NRL level. Both game time and expected training standards. As they say, you will only be a good as the people you play against.

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