Is it just my imagination or is the 2021 season one of the worst on record for injuries?
I have no stats to prove it, but this season seems to have thrown up more injuries than ever before, and the rate of injuries has had, and will continue to have, an enormous affect on the fortunes of many clubs as the season draws to an end.
For example, how bad were Manly going when Tom Trbojevic was out earlier this year? Brisbane have been without star centre Kotoni Staggs for all but a handful of games and have greatly missed his impact.
Penrith look far from world beaters or would-be premiers without Nathan Cleary, Brian To’o and Isaah Yeo. Cronulla are struggling for form and halfbacks after they lost Shaun Johnson for the season.
Multiple injuries, some leading to retirements, have just about ended the Roosters’ 2021 premiership aspirations, and the Raiders have had no luck filling the number one jersey with both Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad and young gun Xavier Savage gone for the season, and have struggled accordingly.
The increased speed of the game, the focus on the correct treatment of concussed players, and the force of the impact as bigger bodies collide are all contributors to the increase in injuries, and these factors may now be permanent features of the game.
It raises the question whether the current squad size of 30 players is sufficient to get through a season, as we’ve seen many games this year where a team’s bench has been severely depleted as a result of injury.
Perhaps it’s time to expand the bench from four to seven players, either with or without changing the total number of available interchanges? Perhaps it’s time to limit the number of players in the tackle?
The injury numbers are staggering really. Going into Round 21 there were over 90 players on the injury list, and that’s the equivalent of three clubs’ full squads.
Of these, some 22 players were listed in the season-ending category, while a further 13 had indefinite return dates. The long-suffering Warriors alone currently have 11 players on the injured list, including three out for the season and one in the indefinite category. No wonder they’re struggling to win games!
Just to illustrate the impact these injuries are having on the competition, here’s a team made up only of players who are classified as being out for the season.
1. Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad
2. Edrick Lee
3. Kotoni Staggs
4. Javid Bowen
5. Nick Cotric
6. Luke Keary
7. Shaun Johnson
8. Lindsay Collins
9. Wayde Egan
10. Ben Murdoch-Masila
11. Tohu Harris
12. Ray Faitala-Mariner
13. Patrick Carrigan
14. John Asiata
15. Morgan Boyle
16. Billy Smith
17. Daine Laurie
That’s quite a handy squad, and quite a lot of talent gone for the year.
We all love watching a faster game played by big, powerful players, and who doesn’t enjoy watching the heavy contact, but injury rates like these just might not be sustainable.