NRL Rookie testing begins
The NRL Rookie – the Nine Network program set to air in 2016 – has reached its second round of casting with players already tested in Brisbane and Sydney, while Auckland testing gets underway on Thursday.
Among the 1,100 applications received, the hunt for the next NRL player has been dwindled down to 200 prospects – with submissions received from Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, the Pacific, North America, Asia as well as a handful of countries in the Middle East, Europe and the Caribbean.
Players have been broken down into three groups for testing, with the remaining hopefuls looking to progress to further tests before being thrown into trial games.
Former London Broncos and Malta coach Joey Grima, the man who has trawled through the applications to determine whether individuals fit the established criteria, described the testing process to NRL.com.
"We have broken all the players into three generic groups: outside backs, middles and ball-players," Grima said.
"We designed four specific drills to measure tangibly what level they are at in relation to catch and pass, awareness, decision making, aggression on contact and ability to wrestle. So there are five or six generic skills required both offensively and defensively.
"From a rugby league perspective they are getting measured on specific skill but they are also doing some strength, conditioning, speed, sight-testing and interviewing by the producers. From my point of view, I have them for 50 minutes where they'll be tested through the skill."
The difficulties of testing was not lost on the players either who were run into the ground early, having to do 10 consecutive 100 metre sprints of Kogarah's Jubilee Oval, before getting into the nitty-gritty specifics of the day.
With the producers of the program interviewing the future prospects, such are the discourses of reality television – Grima himself has been blown away by the experience so far.
"It was coincidental that I returned from London eight weeks ago and I was contacted by the NRL to talk to the producers of the show and here I am," Grima said.
"It's a great experience and seeing the other side of things, the TV side of things and the logistics of it all is quite a phenomenal process of what needs to be organised."
Former Panthers, Roosters, New South Wales and Australian legend Brad Fittler will oversee the program as head coach, with Grima saying there had already been a few players who had caught his eye.