Wests Tigers co-captain Benji Marshall says it's been a huge relief to be back at training after several weeks in isolation and praised the attitude of the entire club for adopting the new COVID-19 regulations.
Two days in to a fast-tracked training regime that will have the players ready for their first game back on the weekend of May 28, the veteran playmaker explained how the week has been for players and what new protocols have been adopted.
“It’s been great getting back into footy with the boys,” said Marshall.
“After being isolated for so long it’s great to be with your teammates again. The excitement to be able to play rugby league is real... for a lot of us, it's our life.
“The excitement to be able to play rugby league - for a lot of us it’s our life.”
“We’re just grateful to be back and I’ve really felt those vibes around the team. It’s great not only to be able to play but to provide a game for our fans and Members to be able to see again and to have them cheer us on like always.
“I’ve been really impressed with the club as a whole throughout this time," he said. "We wanted the game to go ahead and continue as much as we can, so to see the guys buying in to all the little things — that may not seem like much but they’re very important in the scheme of keeping the game going.
“As a team, we’ve really bought in to that attitude, but I praise the club for the amount of work they've done to make sure we have a safe environment to train and also that we’re doing our best to follow those protocols.”
No stranger to pre-seasons and the need to be match fit for a season to begin, Marshall said the adjustments in training — due to strict COVID-19 guidelines — wouldn't affect the team's ability to be ready come month's end.
“So far [this week] has been a reintroduction into running and making a big point about the protocols here and adhering to it,” Marshall said.
"We’ve been back training in small groups.
"It’s exciting to be back training with people again — we took that for granted when it was taken away. I think if it’s two weeks before contact can be made at training, we’ll all be in the same boat for that so it doesn't affect what happens too much."
Will a shorter 2020 season mean Marshall plays on in 2021?
As captain of the New Zealand national side, the 35-year-old also had a special word of praise for the New Zealand Warriors following their commitment to travel and stay overseas in Tamworth to keep the game alive.
“They’ve made the ultimate sacrifice from my point of view because family is everything," Marshall enthused. "We’re all used to having our family around and for them that has changed a lot.
“I think it shows how much the game not only means to them but to put it first for everyone else — I really praise them for that. I’m thankful they’ve made that decision to come and still be part of the competition.
“As a game we’re lucky to have this opportunity to play again and sacrifices need to be made for us to be able to do that."