Raiders boss Don Furner has predicted 2022 will be the toughest pandemic season yet as the NRL scrambles to deal with the latest tsunami of COVID cases which are severely impacting the league.
Most NRL clubs are set to return to preseason training on Thursday, and will be required to abide by an ever-growing list of COVID protocols which include daily tests for players and football staff.
Strict bubble conditions will also be in place this season despite the majority of the league being double vaccinated, which reportedly include bans from indoor venues like pubs, clubs and cinemas, and the need for visitors to players houses being required to pass rapid tests before entering.
Canberra superstar Jack Wighton vented his frustration with the latest wave of infections earlier this week on Instagram, posting: "Thought I was getting the stupid vax so I didn't have to do another year off (sic) this s***".
Furner told SEN radio on Wednesday morning that 2022 was set to be the toughest since the global COVID outbreak.
"It's going to be more onerous than the last few years because there was no COVID, we had none in Canberra, the NRL did a great job [with] two years of no positives," Furner said.
"We've had Zoom meetings every second day and memos coming out. There's a whole raft of protocols we've got to abide by.
"You watch sport around the world and it's now happening in the NRL. You're getting a lot more positive tests, a lot more interruptions for the games or your team lineups.
"The protocols are there to minimise the disruptions as much as possible so if you do have a positive you can pull that player out and continue training and field the team for that weekend as soon as you identify it.
"There will be a whole different regime of protocols we have to go through and it changes every day."
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Raiders staff will address the playing group upon their preseason return on Thursday, to discuss the latest raft of COVID protocols.
The club had its own COVID scare before Christmas when a physiotherapist tested positive for the virus, forcing an early shutdown for the festive period.
Club staff returning to work this week have all been required to undertake a PCR test before re-entering the office.
NRL clubs have been hit hard by the latest COVID wave, but none more so than the stricken Newcastle Knights. It is believed more than a dozen top-grade Knights players have caught the virus, which would leave them unable to field a team this weekend were the league in season.
"I wouldn't imagine there's any NRL club not affected at the moment," Furner said.
"It's a big job just to get them back on the field but we've got to do it to keep the game going."