It will take weeks for Super League to get up to speed this year, Leeds Rhinos coach Brian McDermott has warned.
McDermott fears the affects of this winter's bad weather will be felt for at least the opening seven rounds of the campaign, which begins for Rhinos in exactly a month's time.
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The big freeze in November and December left all clubs struggling to find training venues and Rhinos' opening pre-season game, against Wakefield Trinity Wildcats, had to be put back six days.
It was a similar scenario last year and McDermott believes the competition suffered then.
Rhinos have their own gym at their Kirkstall training base, but have had to hire indoor facilities elsewhere for ball work sessions.
"Everybody is behind," said McDermott. "Unless you have got your own indoor facilities which you have got use of all the time and there are no booking issues or problems trying to get there at the best time of day, it is going to be a problem.
"The first Super League club that gets those facilities is going to get
their noses in front in terms of preparation.
"At the moment, clubs are in the same boat – they have to beg, borrow and steal facilities."
McDermott is confident players' strength and fitness will be unaffected, but he fears it will take time for skill levels to catch up.
"Our blokes come in early and these places (with indoor facilities] don't open until 9am," he said.
"We are having to travel at the same time as people are going to work. Trying to work on players' skills and fitness after travelling for possibly 30 or 40 minutes in a car is not ideal.
"At the moment we are spending time going over skills we started on at the beginning of pre-season.
"We should have been able to advance and progress that and put some finer touches to it, so we are working on top-end skills.
"At the moment we are pretty much where we started off. Only 20 or 30 per cent of our planned indoor skills sessions have been on grass, everything else has been indoors or not at all."
McDermott added: "It will have a bearing on the first seven rounds or so. I don't think it will affect intensity or strength or fitness, but it is going to affect what you are trying to achieve and what goals you set as a team.
"You are going to have to be careful how much you throw the ball about. Anyone who plays a skilful, free-flowing style will be taking a gamble.
"When we switched from winter to summer rugby I don't think anyone
thought coaches would be saying that to their teams.
"It makes it interesting because we have three different types of rugby now, winter rugby until the back end of April, summer rugby and then autumn conditions – and they all suit different styles."
McDermott reckons Rhinos can catch up if they get some favourable conditions between now and their opening game against Bradford Bulls at Cardiff on February 13.
According to McDermott, the best way to guarantee teams are fully prepared at the start of the campaign would be to move the season back to late March or early April.
That would mean reducing the number of games and the Leeds boss accepts that is unlikely to happen, for financial reasons.