There are fears the Parramatta Eels may struggle to name a full team this week as they stare down the prospect of selecting a squad from only 17 available players.
The NRL last week imposed stage three restrictions on clubs following NSW’s COVID-19 outbreak, which meant club staff and players were put back into a bubble to keep the competition going.
With the NRL’s ‘Magic Round’ on the horizon, teams were sent an email by the league last week advising them to withdraw their players from lower grades if they wanted to be available for NRL selection, which would’ve kept those players in the bubble environment as part of biosecurity protocols.
But Parramatta’s decision to play their fringe first-grade players in the NSW Cup could mean the club may struggle to have enough players available for selection according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Fringe players Wiremu Greig, Joey Lussick, Michael Oldfield, Jordan Rankin, Ray Stone, Will Penisini are all part of Parrmaata’s top 30 squad and played NSW Cup on Friday night.
To make matters worse, Marata Niukore and Dylan Brown were hit with suspensions during Parramatta’s win over the Roosters, while a concussion to hooker Reed Mahoney means only 14 of the 17 players from that match could be available for selection.
The Eels are hoping to welcome back Nathan Brown and Waqa Blake from injuries, however, the duo are no certainties to be available for selection this week.
NRL clubs on Tuesday have to submit a 21-man squad as part of the selection duties for the league.
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The Sydney Morning Herald report also states that it’s expected the Eels, who now have to apply to the NRL for an exemption, will be denied after the NSW state government opted to extend its restrictions for another week.
“All NRL squad players who are part of the club’s Apollo Register [i.e. bubble] and are eligible for NRL Competition, must comply with the protocol,” the email sent to all clubs last Thursday said.
“If any squad members wish to participate in second-tier competitions this weekend they must leave the bubble until further notice. This situation will be reviewed for next week.”
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