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Holbrook ready to tackle any new challenge ahead

With plenty of talk surrounding what the upcoming NRL season will look like to combat the ongoing wave of COVID-19, Gold Coast Titans head coach Justin Holbrook has declared he'll be ready to adapt to any new challenge that comes with the new way of life.

"I think the flexibility around it all is what we have to adapt to and we’ve had [COVID-19] going around for two years now with all different sort of situations," Holbrook said, speaking to media on Thursday.

'We’ve just got to be adaptable' - Holbrook

Initially challenged with resuming pre-season training with reduced squad numbers due to a majority of players either testing positive or being a close contact from the recent wave of infections affecting South East Queensland, the Titans head coach was delighted to welcome back a dozen players who missed the first week of the new year.

"The good news today is that we get an extra 12 back, so we’re getting up there to a majority of the squad. We’ve only got a handful away now," Holbrook said.

"Obviously, it’s been a slow start after the break with limited numbers, but there’s not much we can do with that.

"We have just got on with it and we’ve got a lot more numbers back today for the first time, and over the next few days, we should get everyone back unless we lose a few more along the way."

Justin Holbrook speaking to media on Thursday.
Justin Holbrook speaking to media on Thursday.

As a majority of players return from isolation to the training field, there has been plenty of intrigue as to the initial training load of those affected, which Holbrook said will be constantly assessed individually by Titans high performance staff.

"They will have different training regimes and [the return of players] is a case-by-case basis," Holbrook said.

"As we all know, [COVID-19] is similar to the flu, so some people can get on with normal life, whereas other people can get heavily affected.

"We trust the players and we’ve got great medical and performance staff, so we assess it case-by-case.

"Some guys only had a little bit of a head cold and others got more affected, so we’re just going to have to judge them on an individual case when they come back."

With a new young spine set to debut in Round 1, the Titans head coach doesn't believe the interruption has hindered their preparation nor ability to build combinations at all, given players will only miss seven days at a time.

"Every side is going to face [the challenge of missing players]. That’s why we have squads and not just a team," Holbrook said.

"We’ll just deal with it when it happens and get on with it, but we’ll be fine.

"The boys have been training really well, in particular the spine, so we’ll just crack on.

"They’re not away forever. Hopefully it’s just the seven days and hopefully in future, that’ll get reduced.

"A lot of players have been saying they’ve only been unwell for two or three days, which is flu-like, so [it would be good] if we can reduce that seven-day [period].

"[Having to isolate] started at 14 days, now it’s seven and if we get to around four, that’s probably where I’d like to see it."

Justin Holbrook working with young half Toby Sexton.
Justin Holbrook working with young half Toby Sexton.

Asked about his thoughts on how the game could tackle the prospect of missing players during the season due to infection, Holbrook believed the expansion of squad sizes to cover the scenario of missing players is the way moving forward.

"I think bigger squads are the way to go. We look at the BBL now and you’re nearly getting a game yourself," Holbrook joked to journalists at the Titans media conference.

"But we’ve got to be flexible and adaptable, and we want the season to go ahead and we want to play every week as scheduled. So however that has to happen, I’m sure Peter V’landys and those guys will work hard to make it happen.

We’ll just deal with it when it happens and get on with it.

Justin Holbrook Gold Coast Titans head coach

"With every NRL club through their feeder clubs, those feeder clubs themselves are going to know that their players are a chance. That’s a good thing and it’s a good opportunity for people who don’t know when they’re going to get them, so we’ll just deal with it when it happens.

"We can’t really control what’s going to happen. We’ve just got to be adaptable and look, I think the beauty of the vaccinations is the fact people aren’t being rushed to hospital and ICU... the majority are literally just at home with the flu.

"Once we get closer to the season and we realise that, I don’t think we’ll have to go back into those heavy bubble situations. I think it’ll be when you’re infectious, you’re not around for three days and then you’ll be back in.. that's where I’d like it to get to and I think a lot of common sense will come into it.

"Look at the way we handled it when it all began when we had so many people dying overseas from it. We had to start as strict as we can and then have relaxed it over time, so I think the vaccinations and the fact nearly everyone in the NRL is vaccinated has helped everyone’s cause to live as normal as we can to do the job that we love doing."

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