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Broncos forward Patrick Carrigan.

Broncos coach Anthony Seibold has singled out teen fullback Tesi Niu and co-captain Pat Carrigan for praise as he prepares to use small sided games of tag to focus on ball skills when the Brisbane players return to training on Wednesday.

Players from all 16 NRL clubs attended information and education sessions on Monday about the strict biosecurity protocols introduced to enable the Telstra Premiership to resume on May 28 and Seibold said he had been impressed by the fitness of most of his squad.

In particular, he said Niu and Carrigan had impressed him with the way they had used the six-week stoppage due to COVID-19 restrictions to improve on their fitness and strength.

“Tesi Niu and Pat Carrigan are two who really stand out for me,” Seibold said. “Tesi hasn’t made his debut yet but he is a very good player and someone we want to keep longer term. Physically for an 18-year-old kid he is in really good shape and he has worked really hard over this last break.

Broncos players get clarity on new restrictions

“Patty Carrigan is someone who has had to work really hard to keep his weight and size on him. He has been able to get access to a home gym and he has worked really hard on keeping his strength and his size up.

“I’ve got to say that the group has done a hell of a job and the vast majority of guys have turned up in really good shape. I am really proud with the way they have handled that bit of chaos.”

When the players return for training on Wednesday, they will be limited to groups of 10, which Seibold admitted wasn’t idea as he had planned to focus on ball work.

Seibold has broken his squad into three groups based on the 22-18 defeat of South Sydney on March 20 and they will play 5 v 5 games of tag, with the coaches required to remain seven metres from each 10-man squad.

“Our left hand side from the last game will be one group, we will mix them in with some middle forward and the right hand side from the last game will probably be mixed in with some forwards," Seibold said.

“Our renegade group will be group three, the guys who didn’t play in the last game.

“We’ve got to be creative and agile in regards to the way we train. The team that adapts the best will come out of the box really well and the team that wins the premiership will have done a hell of a job.

“I’m one who does everything where you have got defenders in front of you and you have to make decisions and you have to execute skill under pressure.

“We’ve been told we can use the flags for flag footy. We’ll have the boys in flags so rather than touching the body they will pull the flag out.

“My understanding is that by Saturday, with all going well, we will be able to train in full groups with contact and all of that sort of stuff.”

All clubs took their first formal steps towards the commencement of a pre-season ahead of the resumption of the Telstra Premiership with the education sessions on Monday.

I am really proud with the way the group have handled that bit of chaos

Anthony Seibold

Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) Chairman Peter V’landys AM said the education day was an important milestone in the recommencement of the competition.

“It’s a great day for rugby league to see our squads assembling for the first time since the competition was suspended and I’m grateful to clubs and players for the commitment they’ve shown to ensure the competition resumes on May 28,’’ V’landys said.

“Every player participated in an education day which explained our strict biosecurity protocols to ensure players understand what they can and cannot do.

“Our protocols are substantially stricter than the current government measures and we wanted to ensure the first day was devoted to educating our players - they know the future of the game rests with them complying with our protocols.”

Tuesday will be used as an additional education opportunity as well as team meetings and individual meetings between players and staff before active training resumes on Wednesday, in compliance with the National Principles for the Resumption of Sport and Recreation Activities guidelines.

To assist players and staff, the NRL has provided each Club with a dedicated COVID-19 liaison officer to help oversee implementation of the protocols, and the Clubs will allocate a COVID-19 coordinator to assist players and staff. 

Broncos youngster Tesi Niu.
Broncos youngster Tesi Niu. ©Gregg Porteous/NRL Photos

Acting CEO Andrew Abdo said the NRL was making strong progress to resume the season.

“Seeing our players back together is an exciting occasion for our fans and our stakeholders,’’ he said.

“Everything we are doing is focused on resuming the Telstra Premiership on May 28 in the safest environment possible. Our clubs and our players have been outstanding in working together to make a return a reality.”

V’landys thanked the Federal and State Governments for the assistance they have provided the game.

“We’ve worked closely with the government over a number of weeks about the resumption of training and the competition and we thank them for that assistance. We’ve been very transparent with our biosecurity protocols to provide governments with the confidence to allow training to resume.

“It is safer to play now than when the competition was suspended in Round 2. The infection rate has dropped below one per cent and recovery rate is now over 85 per cent.”