Written by Callum Walker
Rugby League is a high-contact sport, there’s no denying that. And, when the traditional pre-season comes around there is a lot of getting used to the fitness and contact levels necessary for game-day.
With the current 2020 season currently suspended with no time limit as yet for when it will resume, players are having to keep themselves fit in their own ways at home.
That isn’t exactly conducive to battering each other senseless for 80 minutes for when lockdown ends. There will be a period of time needed to prepare after such a long time off, it’s not just a case of “let’s go” once the green light is given by the government.
For most Super League coaches, two weeks has been the number bandied about, but others, such as Castleford head coach Daryl Powell, have asked for longer. Of course, it’s all about getting players ready for contact and then maintaining their ability to absorb and manage that contact. As the body gets used to such high impact again, recovery can take just short of a week. This would mean a fortnight’s preparation would likely be too little.
To manage the return in a more effective way, an assessment of the interchange rule needs to be looked at too. An increase in the number of interchanges would ease the pressure on players set to face difficult schedules as the year progresses. If midweek, as well as weekend games, come into being then there needs to be assistance for the players required to put their bodies on the line with significantly less recovery time.
There will be a need to be creative; the season cannot simply start again with no consideration for those taking part. A mini pre-season is just the start with a change in the interchange rule an essential second. The idea of shorter games is a brave one, but it would just wreck the integrity of the sport.
Whatever the decision that is made between coaches and playing staff, these are unprecedented times. Player welfare must be at the top list of priorities, otherwise, the reputation of the sport would take a hit.