Origin reps urge hiatus

RUGBY LEAGUE

Billy Slater suffered an injured shoulder in State of Origin 1.

Billy Slater suffered an injured shoulder in State of Origin 1.

The NRL is on a collision course with rep players who believe there must be changes to the hectic State of Origin scheduling.

Last week's brutal opening Origin contest in Brisbane left a number of NRL teams under-strength due to the large injury toll; none more so than Melbourne.

The Storm lost halfback Cooper Cronk to a broken arm and fullback Billy Slater to a shoulder injury, while their Maroons skipper Cameron Smith defied medics and his club coach Craig Bellamy to play against North Queensland with an ankle injury.

They were thrashed 22-0.

Smith and Storm teammate Ryan Hoffman, who plays for NSW, both backed the concept of the NRL being put on a three-week hiatus while the three Origin matches are played back to back over those three weekends.

Smith said on Monday he would like to see the regular season reduced to 20 rounds to accommodate the change.

"It's hard to back up on weekends [after a midweek Origin game] but you always want to put your hand up for your club because you're trying to win a premiership," Smith said.

"At the same time we always have these issues of players being injured and fans saying the quality of the game has decreased because of injury and fatigue.

"It's up to the administration to look at ways to minimise that fatigue factor."

Hoffman said Origin was the game's showpiece and should be celebrated rather than relegated with the NRL round returning just two days after each game.

"It's such a great spectacle for rugby league we should be talking about it for a week but with games on the weekend it's put aside," Hoffman said.

The Players' Association has an upcoming meeting with the NRL and Smith said player welfare would be on the agenda.

But NRL chief executive Dave Smith said players and clubs were already being looked after with byes and split rounds and there wouldn't be any change to the scheduling.

"At the end of the day it's a contact sport so inevitably there will be injuries," said the NRL boss.

"People prior to me have considered how you might restructure Origin but the format of it is incredibly successful.

"It works; nothing's ever perfect but it's pretty good ... there are no plans to put the [NRL] competition on hold."

Meanwhile, the league boss said the NRL was continuing its probe into salary cap irregularities at the Brisbane club and there was no still timeframe for an outcome. AAP

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