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Player welfare comes first at the Broncos

By Wayne Heming 03/05/2011 05:28:47 PM Comments (0)

Six-time premiers Brisbane took the unprecedented action on Tuesday of ruling out five Test stars from Saturday night's NRL showdown with Melbourne as player welfare finally trumped premiership points.

Brisbane are adamant they haven't conceded defeat by ruling out Darren Lockyer, Sam Thaiday, Ben Hannant, Justin Hodges and rookie Jharal Yow Yeh, believing they can still win the heavyweight clash.

But they've made it clear they are more concerned with protecting their star players from backing up just 24 hours after a Test match, so close to starting an arduous 12-week State of Origin campaign.

And they're not alone in their concerns.

Melbourne's former NSW Origin coach Craig Bellamy greeted the news by saying he may rule out any of his seven players involved in City-Country and the Test match on Friday night.

Close to 70 of the NRL's best players will play representative football on Friday night and be expected to back up for their NRL clubs over the weekend.

"It's always our elite players whose welfare is being put at risk," Bellamy told AAP.

"We've got a few injuries here and we're highly stretched at the moment.

"I'm certainly not going to risk some of our star players because we've got injury concerns.

"I wouldn't like to do it, but I'd use an under 20s player if it came down to that.

"There's an Origin series just around the corner and sending a player into that intense battle in a fatigued state would be a consideration in whether he backs up."

Brisbane coach Anthony Griffin said resting the club's stars was "injury prevention" more than anything else.

"They could play but we're not going to play them," he said.

"(Thaiday) has a groin problem which we're managing and Hodgo with his hamstring and Achilles, they're not going to play in two games in a row.

"We don't want (Lockyer) playing two games in a row either."

Rookie Test winger Yow Yeh is only 21 but Brisbane don't want to risk mentally and physically burning out their young flyer.

"We want to make sure those guys get every bit of care we can give them to get through the season," said Griffin.

It's the first such stand by an NRL club in support of their players.

The Brisbane-Melbourne clash is not the only game likely to suffer because of the heavy representative weekend.

Defending premiers St George Illawarra have 10 players on representative duty the day before their marquee clash with North Queensland, whose co-captains Johnathan Thurston and Matt Scott will also back up against the Dragons.

"Maybe one day all of us coaches should just pull our players out, you'd get a reaction then," one prominent NRL coach told AAP.

"Ok, we have to play the Test.

"But to put the City-Country game on the same night is just poor scheduling."

Lockyer has always backed-up for Brisbane after a Test or Origin, unless injured.

However Brisbane are concerned asking him, at 34, to play three games in eight days could bite them once the effects of Test and Origin football start to kick in before the finals.

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2022 AAP

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