CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 07: Coach Ricky Stuart of the Raiders during the round 25 NRL match between the Canberra Raiders and the New Zealand Warriors at GIO Stadium on September 07, 2019 in Canberra, Australia. (Photo by Tracey Nearmy/Getty Images)

The NRL are set to explore a number of options to sustain the 2022 NRL season amid growing COVID case numbers around Australia.

Already the pre-season has been disrupted in the lead up to Christmas, with the Newcastle Knights and Canberra Raiders forced to shut down operations early.

Other clubs are on high alert, with COVID numbers topping 5000 in New South Wales for each of the past few days, and cases growing in both Victoria and Queensland.

The NRL will be desperate to return to something near normality in 2022 following a 2021 season which saw the competition forced to relocate to south east Queensland for the final three months, costing the game millions of dollars, and New South Wales, Canberra and Melbourne-based fans the chance to watch any rugby league in the back half of 2021.

While state borders are unlikely to be closed again, contact rules currently mean any positive COVID cases could shut down a club for up to a week.

The NRL have already indicated that players will be tested on a daily basis using rapid tests, while regular PCR testing will also be conducted.

Raiders' coach Ricky Stuart said during the week that he wants all players - including those outside of the top 30 in New South Wales Cup and Jersey Flegg - to be able to be selected in the event COVID rules a player out.

“People smarter than me are looking after this but what I told Peter is that we have got to have our rookies, our trial trainers, we have got to have them all ready to go,” Stuart said.

“And it can’t be in June/July (when clubs can call up players outside the top 30 roster).

“We have to train these blokes as if they are going to be playing first grade at some stage this year because there is going to be disruptions, but we can’t ruin the product.”

Stuart's plan is now reportedly being explored, among others, according to The Daily Telegraph.

Australian Rugby League Commission Chairman Peter V'Landys reportedly said Stuart's plan is one that is being looked at, however, that is would be for a worst-case scenario.

Both NRL CEO Andrew Abdo and V'Landys have previously spoken of their confidence that the season will go ahead as planned, however, the recent spike in infections, and impact on pre-season has got the NRL nervous.