'Deal with the facts': NRL denies new rules are behind injury chaos

Andrew Reid
·4-min read
Pictured here, Roosters playmaker Luke Keary and Cronulla outside back Sione Katoa are both helped off the field.
Roosters playmaker Luke Keary and Cronulla outside back Sione Katoa both suffered injuries in a brutal round three. Pic: Getty/AAP

The NRL has rejected suggestions that its new rules are behind a spate of injuries in a brutal round of footy that saw more than 20 players sidelined during matches.

New rules were brought in for the 2021 season designed to speed up play and minimise stoppages during games, so as to make a greater spectacle for fans.

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However, there were also fears that by making the game faster and giving players less time to catch their breath during stoppages in matches, that it ran the risk of jeopardising player safety.

Those concerns were somewhat brought to a head in a devastating round three of action that is likely to wipe players out for a combined 70 games of the season.

The Roosters were one of the most impacted with Luke Keary to miss the rest of the year because of a ruptured ACL, and halves partner Lachlan Lam out for at least a month.

On a busy Monday, Canterbury also confirmed they'd lost Jeremy Marshall-King for up to eight weeks, while Melbourne and Cronulla are among other clubs to have players in doubt.

Canberra, Newcastle and St George Illawarra were still also awaiting the results of scans on their injured stars.

The spate of injuries on Sunday prompted the players' union to claim the increased intensity of matches had cause the sudden rise in casualties.

But the NRL's head of football Graham Annesley urged caution, arguing it was not fair to base the claims off one weekend.

"We just need to deal with the facts and data," Annesley said.

"We had a weekend with high-profile injuries. We need to look at that in the context of what has been happening in the whole season compared to previous seasons.

"We know that we will have injuries every year and there will be peaks and troughs.

"We have to ensure that we are not just reacting to what might happen in one round of football."

Roosters coach Trent Robinson himself insisted on Monday that injuries couldn't be put down to one specific factor, given the variety of causes.

The Roosters finished Friday night with one player on their bench and 12 players on the field after injuries ruined their interchange.

Roosters forward Lindsay Collins is stretchered off the field after a sickening head clash against the Rabbitohs. Pic: Getty
Roosters forward Lindsay Collins is stretchered off the field after a sickening head clash against the Rabbitohs. Pic: Getty

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Canberra also had one reserve left in their loss to the Warriors, while Cronulla's bench was left bare in their defeat to Parramatta.

The NRL is currently compiling data on the injuries, as calls for an injury replacement player are expected to come to a head at Tuesday's commission meeting.

Chairman Peter V'landys stressed before the season that he would be flexible with rules if they needed to be tweaked.

But regardless, Annesley said the NRL's figures showed there had been no clear increase in ball-in-play time in 2021.

"There is no significant increase in the metrics ... from this year on last year," he said.

"There are minor variations every round. But year-on-year at this point, we are not seeing significant variations."

His comments came after senior Roosters player Josh Morris warned that increasing the speed of the game further could lead to an inferior product.

But while Morris said the game was noticeably quicker he insists the line hasn't been crossed - yet.

"Throughout stages, yes definitely (I've noticed the game is quicker)," he said.

"There's still opportunity to get rest here and there but it feels quicker.

"Once it becomes like touch football then it will be too fast, but I don't think it's at that stage yet.

"But there's a fine line and once we go over it then the product will get diluted."

with AAP

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