In watching Channel Seven’s broadcast of Friday night footy, you can’t help but feel that Bruce McAvaney is one of the hardest working men in footy in 2020.
Is it just me, or are there a lot of rugby league players injured at the moment?
It seems like there are so many faces that are missing.
While it’s understandable given the circumstances – players lacking match fitness, plus skeleton ground and medical crews – the numbers tell a rather painful story.
Checking the NRL injury list after Thursday night’s game, a whopping 78 players are currently unavailable to their respective clubs, with only a few of those due to suspension.
That’s over four teams worth of talent sitting on the sidelines.
So let’s have at look at the best talent waiting to be recalled to duty.
Fullback – James Tedesco
The best fullback in the competition and arguably the NRL’s number one, the cerebral Rooster was ruled out for the next round due to an HIA concussion protocol after that savage charge from Maika Sivo.
He’ll be back soon and he will slot right back into the title of the most dominant player in the competition.
Wing – Valentine Holmes
Val Holmes hasn’t had the chance to show us what he is capable of in the number one jersey, but if he can regain the motor that he had pre-NFL odyssey, he will be dangerous against any team either at fullback or on the wing.
While we have seen a few brief glimpses of that same explosiveness and world-class finishing ability (he was one of the best), he has occupied a different role at the Cows than what we were used to seeing the last time he played rugby league.
What do you think the under/overs are of him getting an Origin jersey this year? On the wing, granted, but at fullback?
He’s currently out with an ankle injury and is expected back in Round 10.
Wing – Josh Mansour
I sometimes forget that nuggety one-time Dally M winger of the year Josh Mansour is also a NSW and Australian representative.
He’s been in the system a while now, and scores a try roughly every two games for the Panthers, proving that he’s still up there with some of the better finishers in the league.
He’s due back from a knee complaint in Round 8.
Centre – Tom Trbojevic
Tom Trbojevic is an easy inclusion here. He’s a potential future Dally M winner, and Manly are surely missing their missing link. The attack flows through him out to the flanks, so it will be lean days for the wingers on the northern beaches.
Trbojevic has looked much more integral to Manly of late, and it’s clear that they struggle without him on the paddock.
I guess we will see how much he means to Manly as he is out indefinitely with a hamstring injury.
Centre – Josh Morris
One half of the incredibly evergreen Morris duo, Josh is the less heralded of the two.
Everyone has been saying how the Morrises have been having a career resurgence of late, but I think that’s wrong: they have always been this damn good. It’s just surprising that they are both still killing it when they should be riding off into the sunset and enjoying the twilight years of their careers.
I was originally going to go with Kotoni Staggs for this spot, but if you are given the choice between a Morris brother and someone else, always choose the Morris brother. It hasn’t worked out too badly for the Blues.
He should be back next week after taking a week off for a minor calf issue.
Five-eighth – Michael Morgan or Cameron Munster
North Queensland’s talisman post-Johnathan Thurston, Morgan has been pretty luckless when it comes to injuries as he’s missed at least 21 games over the last two seasons. Hopefully, his battle-weary shoulder should be good to go towards the business end of the season in August.
I’ve included Cameron Munster as a late entry from Friday night’s game against the Warriors. He’s so darn crucial to the spines of Melbourne and Queensland with his ability to react and improvise on the spot to changing situations on the paddock.
After Munster didn’t take the field after halftime, coach Craig Bellamy revealed his ace in the hole could, unfortunately, be out for six to eight weeks with a knee injury.
Halfback – Nathan Cleary
Cleary got roasted for his shanked goal shots, despite probably not having the best field of vision and looking something like the Elephant Man. Besides that, he had a ripper of a game against the Rabbitohs and has been playing pretty good footy of late.
He’s looked a little more confident taking on the line and making smart decisions, and his kicking game has been quite dangerous of late also.
He’s starting to earn that Blues jersey on credit. He’ll probably be back next week, but is listed as injured with a face infection.
Hooker – Cameron King
Cameron King has been something of a rugby league enigma.
He was one of the most highly touted juniors of recent years. He led an Australian Schoolboys team that decimated a British Lions Schoolboys 66-0 and 66-18, and he was the man of the match in both games. He was playing in the under-20s squad when he was 17. But he has failed to make good on the potential so far.
Such was his promise that he was earmarked as a future State of Origin player in 2011, being named to the Blues-in-waiting squad.
Through a combination of bad timing, injuries, inconsistency and limited exposure, King hasn’t quite shone through yet. He’s only 28, and he made a plea over Twitter in 2018 for a new club.
Unfortunately, it won’t be until 2021 when we see him back in the league as he suffered a season-ending ACL injury.
Prop – Jordan McLean
I wrote this part of the article before the announcement that Jordan McLean would join the Cowboys’ squad in Round 7, so I just decided to stick with it.
Last year, McLean had his window. David Klemmer was injured for Game 2 and he looked set to be given a much deserved Origin debut. And then he pulled his hamstring.
Maybe 2020 will be his year. He has the representative runs on the board as he has played six Tests for Australia, and he has also played in two grand finals with the Storm.
Prop – Ryan James
I feel for Ryan James. A Gold Coast junior, he is a genuinely underrated front-rower and stayed loyal to arguably the worst team in the comp in the last decade.
The Titans could desperately do with his go-forward, experience and leadership right now.
Outside of his rookie season and over the ten years he has been in the league, James played fewer than five games in 2012, 2014 and 2019 due to recurrent injuries. How unlucky.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to add 2020 to that list as James has been ruled out for the season with an ACL injury.
Second row – David Fifita
If you released this boom forward onto the market right now (without salary cap considerations), CEOs from all 16 clubs in the competition would be knocking down doors to get a meeting with Fifita.
He is probably the most coveted young forward in the game at the moment and for good reason.
Andrew Voss called him the best schoolboys player he had seen in 20 years of calling the GIO Cup. He is perceived as a club cornerstone.
He’s got exceptional footwork and line speed for a big man and he’s just turned 20. It’s scary to think that he has a few more years of physical development left. He’s a guy that the lords of clubland feel comfortable offering a ten-year Jason Taumalolo type deal to.
But he’s also out at the moment after electing for knee surgery. He should be back at some point in July.
Second row – John Bateman
The reigning Dally M second-rower of the year, Bateman has just gone under the knife for his second shoulder surgery and is ruled out indefinitely.
The lad from Yorkshire had a year to remember in 2019, making a case for one of the better transitions from Super League to NRL, and becoming a crucial cog of the resurgent Raiders’ grand final campaign.
It remains to be seen how much more footy the hard-working edge forward will play for the Raiders. He is adamant he will be back in the Green Machine soon, but rumours have circled, linking him to a possible return to ex-Super League club the Wigan Warriors.
Lock – Victor Radley
It seems to not be a question of if but rather when will Victor Radley put on a Blues jumper.
The hard-nosed firebrand certainly doesn’t lack confidence, and at 22, he projects a physical aura on the field that seems made for the cauldron of Origin.
He looks a bit like Greg Bird and Jake Friend mixed.
Unfortunately, it looks like that Origin opportunity may have to wait until next year, as Victor Radley suffered a potentially season-ending ACL injury against the Dragons.
Dylan Walker – ankle, out indefinitely
The talented five-eighth/centre and NSW representative has a reputation for getting under the skin of certain players on the field and he has been involved in a few on-field incidents. He is a versatile player.
Kane Evans – calf, out indefinitely
The Fijian international was once penciled in as a future starting front-rower, and at six foot six and 110 kilos, he looks the part. However, he has struggled with consistency and injuries throughout his career, and hasn’t reached his potential as a result.
Tariq Sims – wrist, out until Round 9-11
Another fiery NSW representative takes up a spot on the bench. Sims often blurs the line between being frustratingly brilliant and brilliantly frustrating. His aggression and love of the contest sets the tone for the Dragons, but those same qualities can sometimes backfire on him as he gives away silly penalties.
Joe Tapine – knee, out until Round 8
The Kiwi and NZ Maori international went from shredding chickens at the Ingham factory to shredding defences, and he’s got a multi-million-dollar deal to show for it.
Not a bad team, right? I could imagine this team putting a few of the active rosters in the NRL to the sword.
Did I miss anyone? Could Sam Verrills better fill the hooker spot?