Tough position for fringe NRL players: Falcons CEO
RUGBY LEAGUE: Sunshine Coast Falcons CEO Chris Flannery says fringe NRL players, including many of the club's Melbourne Storm affiliates, have been put in a "tough spot" after this year's state competitions were cancelled.
The former Sydney Roosters lock said up to 15 players at each NRL club could miss out on regular game time and chances to press their claims, because they would be unable to lace up in the second tier.
"Unless they're (already) playing in the NRL, there's just nowhere for those guys to play so it's a tough position for them to be in," he said.
"For guys like Darryn Schonig, Chris Lewis and Trent Loeiro, they were really hoping to stake their claims by playing well for the Falcons.
"I think it shows the importance of our competition, running parallel to the NRL."
It appears the only way they can press claims will be at training, with plans for the NRL to resume in late May.
"(But) you can train as hard and as much as you like, it's nothing compared to the intensity of game time."
"It puts all the clubs in a tough position. It's going to be hard for these guys to play NRL this season.
"They're almost waiting for an injury to get a start … and they (coaches) certainly don't like calling up players who haven't played in the previous few weeks. There's no fitness like match fitness."
Flannery believed some of the brightest prospects in the game would miss out on a year of crucial growth, after the state competitions were cancelled in late March due to Covid-19.
"With Queensland and New South Wales Cup teams out of action there's no real development arm of the NRL operating in 2020," he said
"We see players develop each year, playing in Intrust Super Cup competitions, and they need to be playing in these types of competitions."
"Guys like Ryan Papenhuyzen, who you have seen develop over the last couple of years with us, and Joe Stimson and Tui Kamikamica and Ryley Jacks.
"It (the lack of game time) is putting the guys' development back at least another six to 12 months."
And some players, like 27-year-old Lewis, have a limited chance to impress.
He only signed with Melbourne at the end of last year but won't get a chance to push his case with the Falcons this year.
"The window's only very small for them to make it," Flannery said.
"And taking virtually a season out of their lives at this time is pretty crucial to their future prospects."
Forward Schonig, who was close to a debut for the Storm in Round 1 before the NRL season was suspended, was disappointed he couldn't put his best foot forward in this year's state league.
"It's devastating for me and for a lot of other boys too," he said.
"We've done our pre-season and then that's pretty much it.
"For blokes like me and Nicho, people who aren't playing regular first grade, we've got nothing to come back to. It's a pretty sad case."
He said they would do what they could to press claims.
"I've just been told to keep training as hard as I can and there could be an opportunity so to stay ready."