Player freedom soon but don’t think about a Mad Monday
THE NRL’s biosecurity bubble is finally going to burst for long-suffering players.
Players have been told they will be free to live a “normal” life three days after their team is bundled out of the season. For half of the NRL, that means freedom is just three matches away.
But players won’t be able to let their hair down. Government restrictions have brought an end to Mad Monday celebrations and presentation nights.
The off-season is set to be one of the most unpredictable on record because clubs are still uncertain of how many players they can contract.
Clubs had been working conservatively on being able to sign just 26 players for next season but that number is now expected to remain at 30, with two to four development players.
A host of players, including the likes of Jordan Rapana, Kieran Foran, Aiden Tolman, Nathan Peats, Kevin Proctor, Danny Levi, James Tamou and Benji Marshall, are yet to decide their futures.
Discussions around slicing the salary cap are continuing with the RLPA.
A cut between five and 10 per cent is likely.
During the off-season players may still be asked to lodge their whereabouts on an online application as they do throughout the season.
Players will be bound by government regulations, meaning they cannot travel interstate or overseas unless they receive an exemption.
NSW and Queensland will pick their 27-man squads on October 19, just six days before the NRL grand final.
The players who are not involved in the grand final will need to re-enter a biosecurity bubble and will be restricted by it for a month.
It has yet to be decided just what they will need to do to enter the clean zone again. The $30,000 players have been paid per Origin game could be slashed by 50 per cent. Players who play in the grand final and are picked for Origin will be unable to exit the bubble for another three months.
Clubs are expecting to give players an extra week of leave meaning they will have seven weeks off before pre-season training resumes for those clubs which did not make the finals on November 16.
It will be the first time new coaches such as Nathan Brown (Warriors), Trent Barrett (Bulldogs), Anthony Griffin (Dragons) and Todd Payten (Cowboys) get their hands on their players. Players are likely to be COVID-tested before they resume training.