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Why the 2020 season will take more mental toughness than ever

There's been some talk in recent weeks that the 2020 competition should carry with it an asterisk for whoever is declared premiers.

If anything, I'm convinced it should be the opposite.

With the competition set to return in just three days time, all 16 teams will be preparing now for a regular season campaign that carries with it a test we haven't seen in recent history — and are unlikely to see again any time soon.

From now through until the end of the season, it's 18 weeks straight of rugby league action in all its glory.

Count four weeks of finals and it's 22 weeks.

Twenty-two weeks without a bye, without a Representative Round and without a State of Origin period to allow teams the opportunity to manage players' workload.

The 2020 season won't be tainted by the fact the competition stopped for two months only to return in a different format; the 2020 season should instead be remembered as one of the toughest we've ever seen due to the relentless nature of the competition and the mental fortitude that eventual premiers had to show.

Wests Tigers react to the 2020 NRL Draw release


Late last week, we caught up with CEO Justin Pascoe, Assistant Coach Andrew Webster and star halfback Luke Brooks to discuss the 2020 draw and what stood out most from the revelations of what games would be played when.

The insightful chat covered a number of topics and insights, but perhaps the biggest takeaway of them all was around this exact thing — the mental toughness required to compete every week without a break and without a drop in intensity.

"You normally have that bye and it's crazy how one weekend can let you reset," Webster reflected. "With the 18 games in a row, you'll really seperate the men from the boys at that time of year because you've been up [in intensity] for so long.

"That's everyone in the competition. There's no break for representative football so everyone's in the same boat when it comes to that 18 games.

"Towards the end of the year, that's when you'll really start to see who's ready for finals because of that.

"And what it gives you in the future from a mental aspect," Webster added, "is that in the years ahead, knowing that you got through this year, you can get through anything. Whoever wins it is really going to earn it and resilience will be the key."

There's no doubt that season 2020 is unlike any other in NRL history and — fingers crossed — there won't be another season like this any time soon.

To win this year's NRL Telstra Premiership, it's going to take 22 rounds of resilience and determination and a panoply of team unity and depth. 

Bring it on!