22 Jul 2011

Origin burnout may force changes to NRL

12:39 pm on 22 July 2011

Players will no longer be forced to back-up for National Rugby League games 24 hours after representative fixtures, with the 2012 season to be extended by a week to accommodate a representative weekend.

Next year's mid-year Test and what could be the last City-Country match will be played on a standalone weekend, ahead of more drastic proposed changes in 2013, when State of Origin could be shifted to Monday nights.

The proposals were put to a meeting of chairmen and chief executives from all 16 NRL clubs in Sydney on Thursday, with player burnout high on the agenda.

The move of Origin to a Monday night, with just one game on the following Friday night, means only a handful of players would be forced to back-up on four days' rest, while the scrapping of the Monday night game preceding Origin would still give the NSW and Queensland squads an eight-day preparation.

Byes will also be done away with under the new schedule, with one Origin to be a standalone affair and split rounds being played around the other two.

The NRL chief operating officer Nathan McGuirk says NSW coach Ricky Stuart, retiring Maroons' skipper Darren Lockyer and St George Illawarra coach Wayne Bennett - whose club was most affected during the Origin period - were consulted in designing the new season structure.

Stuart initially had mixed reservations about the Monday timeslot, for fear of jeopardising the build-up to each game, but the possibility of abandoning some Monday night NRL matches in the new broadcast deal helped alleviate his concerns.

Also, with the 2012 season to start a week earlier, it was determined the first game would be on a Thursday night, with the All-Stars match to also be moved forward a week.