Five-day turnarounds are no big deal, Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett reckons.
In a view sure to rile NRL rivals, Bennett believes the real threat to player welfare is the State of Origin schedule.
Brisbane has only one five-day turnaround in 2016.
Rivals such as Manly have four in the first nine rounds.
Yet Bennett feared player burnout from the Origin schedule could derail ladder leaders Brisbane’s season.
He was livid that his Queensland stars had to start the Origin period by playing three games in eight days.
“The five-day turnaround is not the issue,” Bennett said.
“It’s two or three weeks later (after an Origin game) when you are just flat and can’t play.
“Look at where we are nearly every season.
“We are in the top two or three and when Origin is over we have finished all over the shop.”
Bennett preferred to take aim at NRL stars who had spoken out about five day turnarounds.
He said their priority should be pushing for stand-alone Origin games.
Bennett accused players of being more concerned with counting their Origin money than counting the cost of the interstate series.
“Player welfare really starts around Origin time … but they are getting $30,000 a game and are happy to cop that and they shut their mouth about the other part and have a whinge about five-day turnarounds for the rest of the season,” Bennett said.
“You can’t have it both ways in my book.
“I can’t seriously listen to players complaining about the five-day turnaround until they get serious about Origin and say we shouldn’t have to back up in two days.”
Bennett said there was no use complaining to the NRL about the Origin schedule.
“What’s the point? It’s not going to change,” he said.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg shared Bennett’s welfare concerns but believed the league had made moves to alleviate burnout.
He said five-day turnarounds would be reduced next year with the end of Monday night football and addressed further under the new broadcast deal from 2018.
“It would be fair to say Wayne and I don’t agree on every issue in rugby league but Wayne does raise some important points and they do relate to player welfare,” Greenberg said during a live Twitter Q&A.
“When the NRL takes control of the scheduling in 2018 one of our priorities will be to look at the five-day turnaround.”
The NRL season will be reduced by a round from 2018 and the second Origin game in each series will be played on a Sunday night in a stand alone weekend of representative football.
“People like Wayne Bennett who has coached 700 games clearly have opportunities to display their views,” Greenberg said.
“We don’t always agree but we will always listen and make decisions in the best interests of the sport and our players.”