Coaches insist drinks breaks are 'a must'

Former Dally M Coach of the Year Graham Murray has called for mandatory drinks breaks during all Sunday afternoon NRL games to safeguard player health.<br><br>Several players battled heatstroke on a particularly warm Autumn day in Sydney yesterday, with temperatures peaking at a sapping 36 degrees.<br><br>Murray watched in dismay as Parramatta duelled with Manly in the sweltering conditions – without designated drinks breaks after 20 minutes of each half.<br><br>Drinks breaks are the norm in trial fixtures and exist as an option for NRL games – as witnessed on the same afternoon at the SFS, where stressed Roosters and Wests Tigers players guzzled down the water in breaks to both halves of football.<br><br>But even with a drinks break it was all too much for Roosters enforcer Jason Ryles, who appeared to suffer from heatstroke and was described as “ga-ga” by concerned coach Brian Smith after the match – which all adds weight to Murray’s demand to look after the players’ safety.<br><br>“Drinks breaks on days like (Sunday) are essential,” Murray told NRL.com. “I think that minute- or two-minute break that they get for drinks is imperative for the players so that they can get their hydration levels back to normal.<br><br>“And particularly the athlete of today, he gets his wind back fairly quickly because of his fitness levels.<br><br>“But gee… two o’clock is usually the hottest part of the day, it didn’t seem fair on (the Parramatta and Manly players) to have them out there the whole time without a break,” he continued.<br><br>“At the end of the day you want to see a quality game of football, not missed tackles or mistakes or blokes struggling in the heat.”<br><br>Murray, who coached in the sweltering conditions in far North Queensland during his seven seasons at the Cowboys, remembers the week leading up to one home game to be played in particularly oppressive conditions against the Melbourne Storm.<br><br>“That was really the only daytime game we played during my stint (at the Cowboys) and it was on a Saturday afternoon,” he says, adding there was a drinks break in that game as well.<br><br>“It was back when they tried to do the 3.30pm, 5.30pm and then 7.30pm times for games on a Saturday and we were given the 3.30pm game against Melbourne and it was really, really stifling.<br><br>“You know about it early on, so you had to ram it home all week because you knew the game was on at 3.30pm. You had to say to yourself ‘it’s going to be hot, so you’ve got to look after yourselves out there’.<br><br>“But the most important thing from a team perspective was to complete your sets.<br><br>“That sounds like it’s what you do every week but particularly in hot, humid conditions you have to control the ball a bit better.”<br><br>Murray also believes that Queensland teams hold a distinct advantage against their southern rivals when they play the Sunday afternoon timeslot – whether it is a home or an away fixture.<br><br>“I used to turn it around and say ‘we train in this sort of heat all the time so we’re probably more acclimatised than they are’,” he added.<br><br>“The Queensland teams, in my opinion, would handle the Sunday afternoons better than the Sydney teams.<br><br>“Most times when we went to Sydney on a Sunday afternoon you’d get to two o’clock and you’d feel fairly warm, but you knew you had the experience of practising and working in that heat up north, so we always felt that was an advantage we could exploit.” <br>