NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo has played down claims from Canberra coach Ricky Stuart that the Raiders have been dealt a rough hand by having to play their elimination final on a six-day turnaround.
The Storm, who finished their regular season last Thursday, have a much longer time between games compared to the Raiders.
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Stuart opted to rest five-eighth Jack Wighton and ever-present skipper Elliott Whitehead when he learned of their likely draw, before saying the Raiders were a club “that’s very used to getting the short straw”.
By contrast, South Sydney and the Sydney Roosters have nine days between their round 25 match – which was played last Friday – and their elimination final rematch on Sunday.
But Abdo said the Raiders, who will play the loser of the Penrith-Parramatta final if they beat the Storm, would be given ample time to recover.
“We look at the scheduling for finals across not just week one, but across the whole series,” he told AAP.
“We don’t want five-day turnarounds between week one and week two so when you look at it from that perspective, it’s very consistent.
“The top-four teams that are not successful this weekend get seven days between games.
“The other (non top-four) teams that are successful get six days.
“We don’t want to be in a situation where one team has a much shorter turnaround going into week two.”
Abdo, meanwhile, said the NRL would continue to allow clubs to host games in week one of the finals at suburban grounds.
Cronulla’s highest finish since 1999 has meant they will play North Queensland on Saturday at PointsBet Stadium, which is currently operating with an 11,500 capacity.
Many fans are expected to be locked out of Penrith’s home game against Parramatta when bigger venues in Sydney are available.
In previous years the NRL has forced clubs to move to larger capacity venues but Abdo said high-performing sides had earned the privilege to host games at home.
“They deserve the right to get a home game in front of their home fans for week one,” he said.
“Then there’s an opportunity later in the final series to play in bigger stadiums and I think that’s exciting.”
Horsburgh welcomes Storm confrontation
Meanwhile, self-confessed Canberra “grub” Corey Horsburgh says he’s relishing the prospect of cutting a Melbourne pack spearheaded by Nelson Asofa-Solomona down to size in Saturday’s NRL elimination final.
Horsburgh was in the thick of the action once more as the Raiders stamped their ticket to the finals with a 56-10 win over Wests Tigers on Sunday.
The 24-year-old prop had a few run-ins with Tigers forward Zane Musgrove and is expecting another onslaught when the Raiders travel to AAMI Park on Saturday.
Asofa-Solomona has been treading a fine line with his on-field discipline and Horsburgh was excited about the confrontation with the Storm pack.
“I love going on and trying to lift the boys,” he told AAP.
“Me and Emre (Guler) know that’s what we have to do.
“We go out there and play our game. And I guess that’s what I’m good at – being a grub.
“He (Asofa-Solomona) is a big scary fella, he’s athletic as well and it’s always a good challenge going up against him.”
Horsburgh has never beaten Melbourne at home but ever since he made his first-grade debut in 2019 the Raiders have four wins from four at AAMI Park.
“I’ve actually never lost there,” he said.
“We got them twice in 2019 and then once in 2020.
“The boys beat them there this year too. I missed that one with pneumonia but it looked like they had fun.
“It’s a great challenge and it’s a good record but that means nothing now.”
Horsburgh hasn’t played finals since Canberra reached the decider in 2019.
Injuries curtailed his promising career in 2020 before the Raiders failed to make it into the top eight in 2021.
“I’ve really enjoyed the year and getting through it with no injuries,” he said.
“I had my lisfranc, shoulder and wrist and feel like I’ve enjoyed my footy and found some form again.”