NRL ready for late All Stars changes

Scott Bailey |

The NRL will be prepared to bring players into All Stars camps until the final minute as it pushes ahead with the representative game despite Sydney’s high COVID-19 case numbers.

Both the Indigenous and Maori All Stars are expected to name their squads on Tuesday, opting for 20-man groups rather than more extended squads.

Teams will go into a six-day camp next Monday, with hard restrictions keeping players to training and promotional events during the build-up.

The NRL was forced to call in players at the last minute for the fixture in 2021 because of border closures.

Similar contingencies are in place this year should there be COVID-19 cases in the training camps.

And there are concerns some players who have featured in recent seasons will miss the game because of injury fears for under-done players after a pre-season already impacted by COVID-19.

Kalyn Ponga, Jack Wighton, Cody Walker and Jarome Luai are among those likely to miss the match, while Latrell Mitchell remains suspended.

Injuries aside, the main worry for clubs remains the possibility of an outbreak when players from almost all NRL clubs are gathered together in the one camp.

However those concerns have largely been allayed by initial protocols sent to clubs in the past fortnight, which will limit All Stars players beyond their pre-season restrictions.

The restrictions would be similar to those imposed on players during the 2020 and 2021 hard bubbles, with some clubs believing it is safer that their players are in the restrictions than in pre-season mode.

Clubs will leave it up to players if they are happy to make the commitment

The players’ union is also set to meet with the NRL later this week to iron out some of the protocols.

Clarification is also being sought on whether players will be able to leave their hotel to see families in a low-risk environment.