In a surprising move, Kevin Walters and his counterpart from Melbourne Storm, Craig Bellamy, have both decided to bench 11 key players in their upcoming match at Suncorp Stadium. This is because the teams have already secured their spots in the top two and top four brackets respectively, just before the finals.
Among those taking a seat on the sidelines for the Broncos are halfback Adam Reynolds, sidelined due to a calf injury, Pat Carrigan with a foot issue and centre Kotoni Staggs, serving a period of suspension. In addition, Walters also chose to rest Reece Walsh, Payne Haas, Ezra Mam, Selwyn Cobbo, Kurt Capewell, Billy Walters, Kobe Hetherington, and Herbie Farnworth despite the minor premiership being up for grabs.
Walters had initially planned to leave out Thomas Flegler, who is captaining the team, but Flegler vehemently resisted. “You don’t argue with Fleg,” Walters explained, jokingly warning, “you can argue with him, be my guest.”
Walters’ proposal of a shorter season would necessitate the State of Origin series being re-scheduled separately from the NRL season. It could be played post-season or the competition could pause midway for it.
Introducing such changes could reduce player fatigue and injuries associated with a physically demanding schedule. It would also eliminate the need to rest numerous players towards the season finale.
Expressing his support for the idea, Walters said, “I’d be a big fan of condensing it [the season] up, but that’s out of my legs the decisions on that.” He further elaborated that while Origin is a great addition to the game, it needs to be timed right.
According to Walters, this move could minimise distractions during the season. Moreover, he added, “I love that our boys play Origin, it’s done wonderful things for Patty Carrigan’s career [and] Flegler’s career when they come out of Origin. Reece Walsh this year has been spending time with Billy Slater in there. That sort of time is invaluable.”
Earlier, Walters had been vocal against resting key players as he geared the club for their first premiership challenge since 2006. However, having secured a top-two position after their last week’s win over Canberra, he flipped his stance.
This decision has upset some fans who took to social media to express their disappointment at not seeing the Broncos’ star players in action. Walters, though, defended his decision by stating that this step would allow veterans like Delouise Hoeter and Jordan Pereira, who haven’t played NRL this year, an opportunity to prove themselves.
Despite controversy, Walters emphasised the significance of the minor premiership, but also pointed out the importance of the bigger picture and the club’s long-term goals. “The bigger picture is next week,” he said, referring to the imminent beginning of the first week of the finals.