NRL updates

Suncorp battle

THE Suncorp Stadium double-header is set to be upsized.

Replicating the Super League ‘Magic Weekend’ that has been part of the rugby league calendar in Great Britain since 2007, all 16 teams will feature in eight games of an NRL round to be played at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium across four days.

According to a report by Channel Seven, the NRL are set to schedule the historic round in May next year, taking the place of the double-header that will be played for a third straight year in Round 10 having drawn more than 95,000 fans the past two years.

Some 150,000 supporters could flood through the Suncorp Stadium gates across the four days, former Broncos and Queensland great Trevor Gillmeister seeing it as a reward to Queensland’s loyal rugby league fan base.

“I think it’s a sensational idea and people will turn up in their droves,” Gillmeister told Channel Seven.

When the NRL Grand Final was locked into Sydney until 2042, the Queensland Government turned its attention to the ‘Magic Week’ concept with economic benefits estimated at close to $20 million.

England- NZ Test

The NRL is weighing up whether to impose one-match bans on any England or New Zealand players who are picked for the mid-season Denver Test but choose not to play.

While the NRL has its concerns about the June 23 international, especially with how players will cope with the high altitude and the tight turnaround between rounds 15 and 16, it is obliged to sanction players who refuse to take part in representative matches.

Under clause 3.1 (a) in the NRL playing contracts, it states the player agrees to “whenever and wherever reasonable required, and to the best of his ability and skill, play the game for the club in the NRL competition … the representative competitions (if so selected).”

Players who continually pulled out of the City-Country clash a few years ago were threatened with being rubbed out of any NRL action on the corresponding weekend.

The NRL are set to continue talks with the Rugby League Players’ Association and clubs next week to thrash out their stance and what would happen if a player refused to take part.

The match will be played during the stand-alone representative weekend – reserved for State of Origin II, between rounds 15 and 16 – however, time zone and flight distances might mean some players will return only two days before their next NRL game.

Heavyweight clash

Just like the Roosters, Cowboys and Sharks, perennial heavyweights Melbourne are yet to stamp their authority in 2018.

There have been flashes of the usual excellence we’ve come to expect, but even with the peerless Cameron Smith still calling the shots, the Storm haven’t proved they have settled comfortably into the life-after-Cronk era.

Newcastle have had their bright moments over the opening rounds and boast a star in the making in Kalyn Ponga. A rare road win over the reigning premiers might be just what the Knights need to truly convince themselves they are top eight material.

The key match-up: Billy Slater v Kalyn Ponga. The two fullbacks are key for their team in both defence and attack.