Queensland legend Wally Lewis has warned Maroons players that this year’s Origin series will be especially “confronting” considering no Queensland teams will be playing finals football.
With this year’s State of Origin series taking place over three consecutive weekends from November 4, players not participating in the NRL finals will be out of action for over a month.
Speaking on Wide World of Sports’ QLDER, Lewis said players struggled when they came back to the NRL after the pandemic-forced break earlier in the season, and Origin football is more unforgiving than NRL.
“When matches return from the COVID break you could see players were doing it a bit tough for a couple of weeks,” Lewis said.
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“And that’s to step up to NRL level. When you’re stepping up to Origin level you’ve got to increase the intensity playing against some of those players that have been involved in the finals series and have premium fitness levels.
“A lot of these players will find it as confronting as they ever have. It’s quite extraordinary that this has been put upon them but it wasn’t by choice.”
After the final round of the regular season, the Maroons are set to go into their Origin bubble possibly as early as October 19 until the conclusion of the Origin series on November 18.
Officials are likely to select 35-40 players in an extended Maroons squad, but players will have a break when they finish their club commitments and will do their own training before entering the camp bubble.
Maroons great Sam Thaiday suggested an unlikely left-field option as a means for players to prepare for the gruelling interstate series, while acknowledging how “tough” training sessions will need to be.
“It’s going to be tough. Kevvie’s going to have to get them to buy into what they’re doing,” Thaiday said.
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“There’s going to be some tough training sessions to keep the fitness up. I don’t know if there’s going to be a chance of an exhibition match or something like that. It’s going to be tough being in that bubble for that period of time.”
RLPA, NRL and state leagues are still finalising details about the Origin bubble conditions and duration.
The NRL is also discussing what restrictions players need to abide by once the regular season is over. It’s understood players will get some time away from the bubble to visit family and socialisel before going back in.
Origin coaches Brad Fittler and Kevin Walters are expected to add additional players to their initial squads as teams are eliminated from the NRL finals.