Hull KR’s Australian coach Craig Sandercock has condemned Super League’s traditional Easter double-header, claiming it compromises player welfare.
Sandercock’s men follow up their Good Friday derby with Hull FC at the KC Stadium by hosting Wigan Warriors on Easter Monday.
“I don’t agree with it at all,” Sandercock said.
“My most important job as a coach is to try and look after my players the best I can.
“We ban the shoulder charge because we’re concerned about player welfare but we let our boys play the biggest derby of the season and then back it up two days later.
“I think it’s not a great idea.
“The derby takes a big emotional and physical toll on your team and to have to back up on Monday against Wigan, one of the best sides in the competition, is a big ask.”
Sandercock’s comments will reignite the debate over the hectic holiday schedule which usually divides the game’s traditionalists from Super League’s Antipodean coaches.
St Helens’ former St George Illawarra boss Nathan Brown admits the schedule initially took him by surprise when he arrived at Huddersfield Giants four years ago but he is now more receptive to the concept.
“It’s definitely different,” he said. “It’s obviously tough on the players but I understand why it happens and everyone is in the same boat.”
Clubs are unlikely to alter the status quo because of the extra revenue generated by Bank Holiday fixtures and Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott believes Super League players are better equipped to deal with the rigours than in the past.
“I know the players are better prepared now than they’ve ever been,” he said.
“The more we find about sports science, the better shape they go into a game and the better shape they come out of a game.
“You wouldn’t actively seek playing three games in a space of seven or eight days but it has less effect on the players than when I played and probably when I played it had less effect than on players 20 years before that.”
Bradford Bulls coach Francis Cummins admits the busy schedule can stretch a club’s resources but he believes there are potential benefits.
“It can affect the clubs with smaller squads but there are going to be opportunities to get some (new) people playing,” he said. “It’s very tough but it’s another challenge.”
The Easter programme kicks off on Thursday night when Leeds and Bradford meet at Headingley and London Broncos host Catalan Dragons at the Twickenham Stoop.