Expanding NRL squads ‘way to go’: Holbrook

Ed Jackson |

Gold Coast coach Justin Holbrook believes expanding NRL squads is the easiest way to avoid disruptions to the 2022 season.

Holbrook has experienced first-hand the chaos a COVID outbreak can have on a first-team squad, with over 20 of his squad forced to isolate last week after testing positive.

The majority of those players have since returned to training with a further 12 rejoining the squad on Thursday.

The Titans coach says the impact of the outbreak only emphasises the need for plans to be put in place to avoid the chaos which has gripped several summer sporting codes in recent weeks.

“I think the bigger squad is definitely the way to go. You look at the BBL now and you probably could get a game yourself,” Holbrook said.

“We’ve got to be flexible and adaptable.

“All we want – we want the season to go ahead and we want to play every week as scheduled, so however that has to happen I’m sure Peter V’Landys and all those guys will work hard to make it happen.”

The Titans aren’t the only team to have had their pre-season impacted by the virus, with Queensland rivals Brisbane having 16 players placed into isolation last week.

Rugby League Players’ Association chief Clint Newton has spoken with league bosses amid player concern over COVID-19 protocols and restrictions placed on players leading into the season.

Holbrook said he was hopeful isolation periods would be further reduced as Australia comes to terms with living with the virus and he agreed that a return to a hard ‘bubble’ similar to that imposed in the past two years is the last thing anyone wants.

“The beauty of the vaccinations and the fact that people aren’t getting rushed to hospital and ICU, the majority of them now live literally just at home with the flu, once we get closer to the season and we realise that, I don’t think we’ll have to go back into those heavy bubble situations,” Holbrook said.

“I think it’ll literally be while you’re infectious for three days you’re not around and then you’re back in.

“That is where I’d like it to get to and I think a lot of common sense will come in to it.”