The NRL are zeroing in on eliminating five-day turnarounds from rugby league from 2018 onwards.
Relations between the game’s governing body and the Rugby League Players’ Association have thawed in recent days after the players were locked out of negotiations over the 2016 draw.
As a result of discussions with the RLPA on Tuesday, the NRL have moved to significantly reduce the burden on players when they reclaim the scheduling of the draw from broadcasters, ARL Commission chairman John Grant said.
“The research we have done is that it takes a minimum of five days for recovery, so you have to go beyond five days,” Grant said on Thursday.
“When we get into 2018 when we have control over the draw, we will have clear air to make all those decisions. We can’t commit to the fact there will be no five-day turnarounds but our intent is absolutely to make sure we give the players the appropriate time to recover.”
Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy has been a strident critic of short turnarounds. His boss, Storm chairman Bart Campbell, who doubles as a spokesman for club chairpeople on the issue, went further than Grant.
“I think the reality is there are challenges for the next year, but there is the ability to improve them for the 2017 season,” Campbell said.
“Monday night games are going away in 2017 and if you look forward from there the broadcast deal for 2018 I think five-day turnarounds are completely gone from the game,” he said.
“It is an issue that that has been addressed as best as it can be in the context of existing contracts.
“Five-day turnarounds harm the players, they are not good for competition integrity and thankfully they are going away. The NRL has done a good job in reclaiming the draw.”
The NRL has promised a 25 per cent drop in five day turnarounds from 2017.
There are the same number (31) of short turnarounds in the first 20 rounds released for season 2016 as there were in 2015. In a draft release of the 2016 draw for the final six rounds there contained 12 more five-day turnarounds, bring to 43 the total number for next year, the same as this year.
However the NRL has indicated they are keen to reduce that workload on players at the back end of 2016, when the final six rounds are officially released.