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Players open to November finish to fit in more games

NRL players would be willing to play out the remaining 23 rounds in an extended season to fulfil their contractual obligations, according to RLPA chief Clint Newton.

The NRL's proposed May 28 restart has once more raised the possibility of play continuing past the usual October long weekend grand final date into November, pending further discussions around the competition's format.

A 15-round season in which each team plays each other once was presented to clubs as an option on Thursday, allowing for a four-week finals series and a potential October 4 decider.

But the notion of extending the competition to replicate a regular season could also meet the NRL's intention to "fulfil our contractual obligations" to broadcasters Nine and Foxtel, as ARL Commissioner Wayne Pearce said on Thursday.

Leaving weekends free to play make-up games as a contingency for another potential coronavirus-enforced hiatus is also understood to be an option under consideration.

Newton said player welfare would be paramount to the RLPA’s stance on the competition's format, especially for any team required to relocate to play, like the Warriors and potentially the three Queensland-based clubs and Melbourne.

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But provided an adequate break can be provided for players between completing the 2020 campaign and gearing up again once more for next season, he said playing until mid-November should come into consideration.

"Realistically we have to try and play as long as we can," Newton said.

"But at the same time you also want to make sure you're providing the players with enough time, and the staff and fans to have a bit of a spell after the season, to rest, recover and recuperate and then get back into training.

"Obviously the later you go into the year that does then pose a greater level of challenge around the recovery times to then reactivate for 2021.

"We also have to strike a balance of 'we're doing this for this year', but you also want to rebound next year with a high-quality competition.

"You would suggest that playing up to November becomes a very real possibility."

Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, players are entitled to a minimum six-week break between a season's finish and pre-season training.

Senior players who have completed at least six pre-seasons can take up to eight weeks off, though there is potential for these time frames to be reworked.

Australian and English Test stars did not finish their 2017 season until the December 2 World Cup final that year, with players given the ability to pause their entitled leave to better balance workloads and a shorter turnaround between seasons. understands the RLPA is willing to explore a similar arrangement given the unique challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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