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Opinion

Top-eight twists will be a formality as warp-speed fallout takes hold

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Roar Guru
27th June, 2020
24

Peter V’landys is flat chat.

Even in idle, the ARL Chairman with the slicked-back hair still looks fast. Probably even too fast to stop and have a laugh, unless he owns the joke.

Ripping the shackles off the game in lockdown then watching the unsuspecting wilt is up there with sending your best mate to your nan’s 80th in fancy dress.

Not that there’s anything wrong with warp-speed rugby league, but with players unconditioned to the shock, plenty will finish under the bus.

Only last week many experts attributed the demise of Manly’s injured trio to shoddy Campbelltown turf, but Daly Cherry-Evans was having none of it.

“Injuries are the unfortunate part of our game and based on how fast the game is at the moment I wouldn’t be surprised if this isn’t the last that we see this year with those sorts of injuries,” the Manly skipper said.

“It is a different game out there it is bloody fast. You only have to look at the cramps that people are getting to see that.”

Adam Reynolds knows the pain, with a hamstring hanging by a thread his Rabbitohs finished with 11 under a Panther blowtorch. Then on Friday at Bankwest, Victor Radley and Sam Verills suffered season-ending knee injuries.

Roosters officials were quick to blame the surface while plenty in the commentary box disagreed. But what can’t be doubted is the game’s post-COVID shift through the gears.

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Last year’s premiers entered the Dragons clash already fatigued after ending Parramatta’s unbeaten run in a contest that rivalled Origin intensity. Compared to the average of their opening two rounds, the Roosters played 16 more sets at a ruck speed 0.3 seconds faster.

Put another way, that’s 14 per cent more footy condensed into a timeframe five minutes shorter than the stop-start pre-COVID grind.

And now with five weeks of the modified format under their belt, Trent Robinson, already known for resting his best, must be asking his team if additional measures are needed to manage compounding fatigue.

Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson arrives to address media during a press conference in Sydney

(AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

But it’s not just hammies, knees and groins. With fatigue, technique is compromised and concussion risk increases.

And with just a third of the season complete, the impact of depleted rosters has barely scratched the surface. With no byes or Origin breaks, it’s inevitable the top sides, either through injury or roster management, will eventually come off the boil.

No doubt, every club irrespective of ladder position faces the same issue but as the top teams juggle their elite it’ll be up to those below to question their depth.

Already Paul McGregor’s under-fire Dragons have shown the under-strength Roosters are vulnerable while the early consistency of Newcastle is now on shaky ground.

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V’landys’ sympathy for the wounded will be short-lived. Always a play ahead, from his eyes it’ll be collateral damage for a product left stagnant for way too long.

One thing’s for sure, despite the current revival the NRL’s best is still yet to come. With offseason training aligned to the revised format, 2021 promises to be next-level again.