Raiders raise player welfare concerns for Denver Test

Canberra Raiders coach Ricky Stuart has questioned the impact on player welfare regarding the historic Test to be played in the United States this year between England and New Zealand.

The three-year deal will pit the two rugby league powerhouses against each other at the home of the Denver Broncos, Mile High Stadium.

Billed as the ideal chance to build the profile of the game in burgeoning markets such as America, the clash will be played on June 23.

Stuart is a fan of international rugby league but questioned if the fast turnaround would be detrimental to player’s health.

“But when you have promoters who are running your scheduling when it comes to international games the question should be asked, how much is the promoter making out of all of this?” Stuart said.

“Where is the welfare for the player? There’s none.

“You can’t travel hours on a plane and it not affect you, St George (Illawarra) play three days later when they get home and they’ll have a number of English players in their team.

“So, for me if we’re going to be fair dinkum about welfare, be fair dinkum.”

Raiders forward Elliott Whitehead backed the American Test and said he would elect to play for his homeland.

Raiders forward Elliott Whitehead.
Raiders forward Elliott Whitehead.
©Scott Davis/NRL Photos

“I think it’s great taking the game internationally over to America to give them a taste of two quality rugby league teams,” Whitehead said.

“I think it’s just going to grow our game internationally and hopefully I am fit and playing well so I can be selected as I’ll definitely be outing my hand up to play in it.”

The 28-year-old said he wasn’t concerned with the trip halfway around the world, saying he had faith in the English support staff to lessen the burden.

“I feel like our medical staff in England will be doing a great job as they have been the last two years with procedures in place to help with our recovery,” Whitehead said.

“I don’t think the training will be too heavy when we are over there, so as long as we follow the procedures, I think we’ll be fine.”

However, with Canberra travelling to play the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium seven days after the American Test, Stuart said he doesn’t want the club’s premiership chances being hurt.

“We do our best as a club to have our players be physically prepared to play every game,” Stuart said.

“These players when they arrive (back in the country) won’t be physically prepared, we just won’t have the ability to turn them around from such a long overseas trip in such as a short amount of time.

“You see with the English teams that come over here, Wigan came over here and got beaten and went home.

“Can I afford that as a club coach, no I can’t. Can I afford one of my players take the field when they aren’t 100 per cent, no I can’t.”

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