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Titans coach Justin Holbrook believes extended squads may be needed in 2022

Titans coach Justin Holbrook says the COVID wave that reduced his training squad to just a handful of players recently has not overly disrupted pre-season but believes bigger squads will be a necessity through the season proper.

Holbrook was optimistic his new-look spine wouldn't be overly set back, with fullback or five-eighth AJ Brimson "flying" after being forced into isolation around Christmas, although the squad did lose breakout star Jayden Campbell this week with the young fullback forced home.

"The good news today, I think we get an extra 12 back today so we're getting up there now to the majority of the squad," Holbrook said on Thursday.

AJ Brimson is among the Titans players to have recovered from COVID
AJ Brimson is among the Titans players to have recovered from COVID ©Titans

"A slow start after the break with limited numbers but there's not much we can do about it."

Holbrook pointed to the way cricket's Big Bash League had recently been forced into calling up club cricketers to fill gaps for COVID-ravaged squads as a possible indicator to how things may happen in the NRL this year.

"The bigger squad's definitely the way to go," Holbrook said.

"It's hard to answer but the flexibility around it all is what we've got to adapt to.

'We've got to be adaptable': Holbrook

"We've had it going around for two years in all sorts of different situations. We're looking at the BBL now, we've got to be flexible and adaptable. We want the season to go ahead and we want to play every week as scheduled.

"However that has to happen, I'm sure [ARLC chairman] Peter V'Landys and all those guys will work hard to make it happen."

The opportunities handed to feeder club players could also be a long-term benefit, he added.

"With every NRL club through their feeder clubs, the feeder clubs themselves are going to know those players are a chance," he said.

"That's a good thing, for opportunities, for people that don't know when they're going to get them. We'll deal with it as it happens."

Brimson's Christmas diagnosis was something of a blessing in disguise, with the Maroons utility missing no actual training time.

"He's excellent," Holbrook said.

"In a weird way, the good thing is to get it over that Christmas break which he was one of the first to get it so now he hasn't missed a session. He's flying and doing really well."

With almost every player vaccinated, most are suffering only very short-term illness through the current Omicron outbreak, according to Holbrook. As a result, even shorter return-to-play times could be on the table once the season gets underway.

"They're not away forever, it's seven days and hopefully in future that will get reduced," he said.

"A lot of players are saying they feel unwell for two or three days which is flu-like so if we reduce the seven day thing – in five or six weeks when the comp starts it could be literally that, it could be you're out for three days until you feel better.

"We started at 14 days, now we're at seven, I think if we get to four that's probably where I'd like to see it go to."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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