Rugby League


NRL: Canberra Raiders ready to feel the heat

Canberra Raiders strength and conditioning coach Nigel Ashley-Jones would support a blanket NRL ban on early season day games, but says they'll have no excuses for again wilting in the March heat this year.

A traditional slow starter, Canberra has made improving its sluggish performances in hot weather a focus as it prepares for a round-one clash with North Queensland in Townsville.

The Raiders have won just three of 21 games in Queensland, and are acclimatising for the tropical north by training in the middle of the day.

Last season, Canberra lost its first two games, at Penrith and Gold Coast, both played in stifling temperatures.

At the time, Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy said the NRL should consider playing only night games in the first month of the competition.

The proposal was backed by Raiders prop Brett White and former chairman John McIntyre, who described the Titans match conditions as ''like babies being locked in cars in car parks''.


Some players, including Shaun Fensom and Josh McCrone, lost more than four kilos in a match Canberra lost 36-0. Canberra also travels to tropical Darwin later in the season to play coach Ricky Stuart's former side Parramatta.

After North Queensland, Canberra faces Newcastle (away) and Gold Coast (home) at 6.30pm, before taking on Souths (away) at 2pm in round four.

The Raiders invariably make up ground when the mercury drops mid-season, but Ashley-Jones said they were unwilling to give rivals another head start.

''We don't make the decisions but I would support that [March night games] 100 per cent,'' he said.

''Studies are showing training in the heat increases your endurance capacity, and the first two rounds of last season the boys weren't ready for it.

''What we try and do all through pre-season is produce a fit club which has no excuses.

''The argument always is, is it dangerous and yes it potentially is.

''But if that's the kick-off times, we have to be ready for it.''

Most players have shed several kilograms to help endurance, and will put on more weight as the season enters the cooler months.

''My philosophy has always been for the guys to be nice and lean at the start of the year when it's a running game and teams aren't match fit,'' Ashley-Jones said.

''We are going into this season leaner than we will be by Anzac Day when the weather turns, we want the body shape of players to suit the weather.

''The heat is something Ricky and I are especially focused on this year.''

Canberra's 20-12 trial win in Melbourne in stifling heat was ideal.


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