Eels Corey Norman is tackled during the NRL Trial match against Penrith / Peter Sterling Photos: Getty Images
Parramatta great Peter Sterling predicts NRL trial matches could be a thing of the past as the game's elite face an excruciating 10-month slog in 2017.
Fans will get their first fix of footy at this weekend's Auckland Nines however some of rugby league's biggest names will be steeling themselves for an arduous year ahead.
The World Cup final will take place at Brisbane's Suncorp Stadium on December 2 meaning the likes of Johnathan Thurston, Shaun Johnson and Jarryd Hayne are facing more than 10 months of continuous football.
The pre-season schedule is becoming increasingly packed with next weekend's All Stars match, Cronulla and Brisbane taking part in the World Club Series in England and each club to play two trials.
Then with 26 rounds in the regular season, State of Origin and a four-week finals series, there is little rest between now and the end of the year.
Jarryd Hayne facing 10-months of continuous footy Photo: Getty Images
Sterling said something had to give and predicted that because modern footballers were so well conditioned, trial matches were becoming unnecessary.
"It's a huge season for our elite players ... I think trial matches, we're probably getting past that now," Sterling told Sky Sports.
"When I played, and that was back when we just got electricity going, you played trials and it was something to get that match conditioning up.
"But the way that they train now and they only have short-ish breaks, and a lot of them are coming off tour with the Four Nations, (trials) are not as essential now."
Penrith boss Brian Fletcher last week called for the Auckland Nines to be scrapped because it represented an unnecessary risk to the club's premiership ambitions.
Jake Trbojevic is taken off the field on a stretcher during the 2016 Auckland Nines Photos: Getty Images
Manly coach Trent Barrett last year labelled it as dangerous after Jamie Buhrer (broken jaw), Jake Trbojevic (concussion), Jorge Taufua (hamstring) and Jayden Hodges (knee) all suffered injuries at the tournament.
However, NRL CEO Todd Greenberg on Thursday issued a resounding vote of support for its future, saying it was only going to get bigger and floated the idea of taking it further abroad.
"It's exciting to see players like Bevan French come through as he did on the back of the nines last year," Sterling said.
"That's the real positive part of it, it generates good publicity.
"The downside is you can pick up an injury that can be real hurtful to your premiership campaign."
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