North Queensland hooker Jake Granville says he wants to become an 80-minute player as the Cowboys brace for the impact of reduced NRL interchanges this year.
The number of interchanges available to teams will drop from 10 to eight this season and, in response, forwards across the competition have been working overtime over summer to ensure they’ll be able to cope.
Granville, one of the breakout stars of North Queensland’s 2015 premiership campaign, is one of them.
Having logged more than 70 minutes of game time on just four occasions last year, the 26-year-old knows he must up his stamina if the Cowboys are to capitalise when opposition brutes inevitably tire late in matches and chances present themselves.
“Fitness is a big thing,” said Granville, who heads to Brisbane on Friday for a three-day Queensland Emerging Origin camp.
“I struggled in some games around last year towards the back there.
“To play 80 minutes is a tough job and I’ve got a lot to work on in that side of my game.
“Not blowing out early and stuff like that so that is an aspect of my game I’ve got to work on.”
Cowboys veteran Ben Hannant is bracing as well for the impact of the new rule changes, which also include the introduction of a shot clock for line dropouts and scrums.
“We had the refs up here for a little trial game between ourselves. That 30 seconds between scrums and dropouts, I think that will knock up a few boys,” Hannant said.
“It is important to be able to have those extra couple of Ks in your legs so, when you need to, you can respond.
“With the interchange down to eight now, it will be important for the middle blokes to carry a bit more juice.”
North Queensland’s first pre-season trial match is against their grand final opponents Brisbane in Bundaberg on February 6 – the same day as the Auckland Nines start.
Coach Paul Green, as ever, is staying mum as to which players will be involved where, but the ultimate goal for all is to impress enough to earn a spot on the trip to England for next month’s World Club Challenge.
“It will be a short turnaround to travel – that’s up to the coaching staff. We’ll see what they do from there,” Granville said.
“I’d love to head over there but we’ve just got to see how we go.
“It’d be an honour to play over there – it’s a big game. I’ve got my passport ready.”