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Crunch time: Contact work key to preparing for restart

Weights, nutrition, exercise drills, and running can all be done in isolation but there's one major component to rugby league that players can't replicate – the heavy thwack of contact work.

Social distancing does not allow for a 90kg-to-100kg frame to charge into another at high velocity then try to keep them pinned on the ground.

Players eagerly got back into the team training environment over the past week for the build-up to May 28.

The NRL has given the green light to contact work from Monday as COVID-19 restrictions are loosened, which means the teams have less than three weeks to do contact work – after eight weeks without wrestling, scrimmaging and tackling.

"Obviously when it can happen, that will be the majority of our training," said Roosters co-captain Jake Friend, who averages over 40 tackles a game.

"The footy side and combos is one thing but getting those bumps and bruises – getting ready for the footy to start again – that's important."

Roosters ready to go after finals spot

Teammate Mitch Aubusson defers to the coaching staff to help pick up the slack here.

"Obviously there is limited time that we do get for contact. We really do trust the staff around here to make sure we’re ready to go in round three," Aubusson said.

"There will be a lot of work that goes into that between now and then because you’re right, the contact stuff needs to be worked on in a short amount of time."

O’Brien: Our obligations are clear

Knights coach Adam O'Brien plied his trade under as an assistant under Trent Robinson at the Roosters and previously Melbourne's Craig Bellamy on how to best prepare players for contact.

Peak conditioning in the pre-season is key. And that's what he put the Knights players through from November. Not knowing back then that COVID-19 was about to arrive, he has still given his team the insurance to regain contact fitness.

"Physically they’re able to take off from where they were when we finished [in March]. We’ve also just got to make sure they have that mental edge," O'Brien said.

"All we can do is prepare them the best we can. The real responsibility of coaches and performance staff is to be really detailed in our planning – the players trust us to get that right.

"I’m confident that we’ve done that – so now we have to implement it."

O'Brien said he had already pencilled in opposed sessions and scrimmaging into his schedule over the next fortnight in the absence of trial games.

Sharks coach John Morris is also at the ready, saying there were two things at the top of his list for the lead-in to the season resuming: "get our team structure going – everyone working cohesively – and get our contact going."

Sharks get creative over the break

South Sydney halfback Adam Reynolds thinks it's best to ease into that contact work.

"I’m pretty happy with the way we’re doing things. It’s the first week back so we’re getting Ks [kilometres] in the legs and going through all the protocols that we’re now under," Reynolds said.

"Next week we’ll get more physical contact. It only takes a week or two to get the body hard for contact."

Bulldogs skipper Josh Jackson believes "a good two to three weeks of contact" should be enough.

Eels eager to restart the season

"I'd imagine but every club's on the same page so it's a level playing field."

As far as Eels fullback Clint Gutherson goes, he's in no rush to start slamming his body into teammates or trying to stop the likes of Junior Paulo as they charge down the training paddock.

"I'd be happy if we can't do it for the rest [of mini pre-season]," he said.

"The middle boys and everyone in the front line have to get used to it but I don't think it will take too long. It's been six weeks, you'd like to think your body can still hold up to it but once we can get into that 13-on-13 and get some contact in, it will only take us a couple of days to get into it."

Sea Eagles winger Reuben Garrick has other skills on his mind until May 28.

"Contact is important but getting the ball in your hands, working those combinations and getting your timing. That’s so under-rated in the game," Garrick said.

Back-rower Curtis Sironen thinks the Des Hasler fitness programs during the regular pre-season will mean Manly's players are firing on all cylinders.

Holbrook: Contact training important before restart

"It's hard to say and hopefully we haven't lost too much since the time we've been away," he said.

"We had a big off-season where you did a lot of that preparation. You'll still be very sore after the first game but hopefully we get some opposed stuff – real type-of-game stuff – to get the body ready.

"I remember round one. I couldn't walk for a couple of days and then round two I felt a bit better."