Big workload ... Craig Bellamy is worried for elite players. Photo: Getty Images
MELBOURNE coach Craig Bellamy has called on the NRL to introduce bigger squads and pause the competition for State of Origin in exchange for adding the Auckland Nines and expanding the World Club Challenge during the next two seasons.
After his captain Cameron Smith spoke out at a media conference in Leeds against the increasing demands on players, Bellamy told Fairfax Media something would have to give if the pre-season program was expanded.
NRL club chief executives will on Wednesday vote on whether to approve a pre-season nines tournament in Auckland which would carry up to $2.2 million prizemoney.
A plan for the World Club Challenge to move to Australia next year and be expanded to six teams in 2015 is also awaiting the rubber stamp.
"They just can't keep adding things on, jeez," Bellamy said. "The workload our elite players go through, it's huge. If they're going to add a nines tournament and they're going to add the World Club Challenge, make it longer or whatever. They're all obviously good concepts, without a doubt.
"The indigenous game, I spent a week with the indigenous team this year, and I saw how important that game is to those guys so you do don't want to be cutting that out either.
"There's got to be something to go – or, at Origin time, let's call the comp off for the three Origins and cut down the amount of games you play.
"We're expecting too much of our elite players and . . . it will shorten their careers. You don't want to be shortening the careers of our elite players because, with all due respect [to others], that's what people come to see.
"It's great having all these new different ideas for different formats of different parts of our game but it's got to stop somewhere or let's get bigger squads and be able to rotate the players. But that's going to cost money."
Earlier, Australia captain Smith said: "It's a pretty touchy subject at the moment, particularly in Australia.
"Someone told me last week that if I stay fit and I'm playing most games, I'll be close to playing 40 matches this year. I believe the World Cup final is on the 30th of November.
"We've got to be careful trying to add in all these new competitions and new matches because the way the game is going at the moment . . . it's getting faster and faster, guys are getting bigger and stronger and it's taking its toll on players.
"If you want to see the elite players in the game for a long time, then I don't think you want to be tampering too much with workloads and adding games here and there."
The Storm were due to name their team to play Leeds on Tuesday night, while Leeds have confirmed Zak Hardaker (thumb) and Ryan Bailey (knee) will miss Friday's match at Headingley.
It has emerged a drugs test in London, referred to by fullback Billy Slater, was part of "blood profiling" being undertaken by the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority. Centre Will Chambers tweeted: "Perfect start to my trip just got woken up by drug tester asking for my blood."