State of Origin: NSW Blues cancel pre-season camp, Covid-19 concerns

State of Origin: NSW Blues cancel pre-season camp, Covid-19 concerns

Last year’s State of Origin series was rocked by Covid-19 and five months out from Game One, the virus’ impact is already being felt.

Five months out from this year’s opening State of Origin game the series has already been hit by Covid with both Queensland and NSW’s pre-season camps called off.

The Blues were set to hold their camp on February 3, when 30 NRL players tipped as chances to play in this year’s series had been due at Sydney Olympic Park for a session with NSW coach Brad Fittler.

However, NSW Rugby League confirmed on Wednesday morning that high case numbers in the state had forced the Blues to cancel their only chance to train before the NRL regular season begins on March 10.

“NSWRL has shown an abundance of caution given the current Covid volatile environment,” Fittler said.

“Player safety comes first and given the players will be coming from a number of different clubs, we believe this is the most responsible decision to make for all concerned.”

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Queensland Rugby League informed all NRL clubs on January 14 that it had scrapped its pre-season Origin camp, which had been set to go ahead from February 5-6, for similar reasons.

Neither camp will be rescheduled, given clubs and the RLPA had only permitted Origin players to be released from NRL duties on previously agreed days.

Newly-minted Maroons coach Billy Slater is now planning to catch up with players in small groups in their home cities, rather than hold an all-in camp as planned.

“We were preparing to bring up to 40 players together in Brisbane but we feel it is in the best interests of players and clubs to cancel those plans given the current situation,” Slater said.

“We’ve since explored alternative options and getting smaller groups together with some of our coaching personnel will still deliver positive outcomes as we build towards the start of the series.”

After all three games were played in Queensland last year due to Covid-19 restrictions south of the Tweed, Sydney is set to host the first game of the 2022 State of Origin series on June 8.

Origin II will be played in Perth on June 26, before the series concludes at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on July 13.

The Blues claimed victory in last year’s series after dominating the Maroons in the first two matches.

Injuries to Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai forced the Blues to find a new halves pairing for Game Three, which Queensland won to avoid a series whitewash.

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Author: Shirley