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Seibold identifies key stat as source of NRL's injury crisis with galaxy of stars out of Manly-Storm clash

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23rd May, 2024
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Manly coach Anthony Seibold has picked out the increased pace and duration of the NRL in 2024 as a key factor behind the spate of injuries seen across the league in recent weeks.

Speaking ahead of his side’s Friday night clash with Melbourne, Seibold reflected on a teamlist that will likely see his side on their third choice fullback in debutant Lehi Hopoate with Tom Trbojevic and Tolu Koula both out, and facing a Storm team missing three spine members in Cameron Munster, Ryan Papenhuyzen and potentially Jahrome Hughes.

The coach quickly identified the source of the issue.

“There’s obviously a problem because you’ve got so many players out of the game,” he said.

“The game’s never been more intense – as an example, the game of footy last week was 60 minutes ball in play. That’s extremely high, the highest ball in play time we’ve had over the last 18 months.

“The first half went for 42 minutes, so what’s happening is that you’re not getting much downtime between stoppages of play. With the six again rule, the game’s so continuous.

“We’re seeing so many soft tissue injures, so many ruptured biceps – we had one last week (for Matt Lodge) – so many pecs being ruptured. The game’s never been more physical, it’s never been more intense.

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“The amount of games that we play is really high in comparison to some other sports, but that’s probably the TV money and the media and the support for the game.

“I don’t know what the answer is but the game has never been more intense and there’s probably never been so many injuries.

“We’re busted ourselves and Melbourne have a few injuries to key players too, but if you look across the whole competition, there’s very few teams who don’t have those injuries.”

His own side play into this intensity, topping the stats charts for combined supports and passes per run, producing a playstyle that is notably different from most other teams in the NRL.

It has had mixed results so far, with a 5-5-1 record through 11 rounds, and has resulted in some statement wins but also defeats when ahead.

“We’re trying to use our weapons,” he said.

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“We have speed and some really skillful players. We’re trying to play our way of playing rather than copy anyone else and I’ve said that since I’ve been here.

“We’re trying to play a brand of footy that is high energy, lots of push supports and passes, and I think it’s a good style, I think people enjoy watching us play. We don’t always get the result unfortunately but I think it’s a good style of footy.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 04: Daly Cherry-Evans of the Sea Eagles passes during the round one NRL match between the Manly Sea Eagles and the Canterbury Bulldogs at 4 Pines Park on March 04, 2023 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Daly Cherry-Evans. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

“The speed of the game is so high at the moment and we’ve given ourselves a chance in every game playing that way. I think we’ve had five losses for a combined 23 points, so we’re not far away.

“We ask a lot of questions of teams from a defensive point of view. We’re trying to cater for the weapons we have in our team: if I was coaching another team that didn’t have the skill or speed that we’ve got, I’d find a different way of playing.

“Every team talks about having their DNA, and I’m not sure what it is for other clubs, but for us, we’ve got a really effective kicking game and some fast athletes with a high skills level, so that’s one bonus of playing for us.”

Seibold’s men are on a three match losing run with defeats to Canberra and the Dolphins before losing to the Broncos at Magic Round last week, but have been competitive throughout and only lost by more than one score once, to the Dragons in Round 4.

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GOLD COAST, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 20: Haumole Olakau'atu of the Sea Eagles is tackled during the round seven NRL match between Gold Coast Titans and Manly Sea Eagles at Cbus Super Stadium, on April 20, 2024, in Gold Coast, Australia.

(Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Indeed, Manly have only lost by 17 points combined across all five reverses in 2024.

We’ve been really close in the last few weeks against some decent teams. We’re not far away and we’ve got great confidence in where we’re going. This is another good opportunity for us.

“If you just look at the scoreboard it’s frustrating because you’re so close,” said the coach.

“The thing that I looked at was that I didn’t think we performed that well against the Raiders and the Dolphins for periods of time, but for the bulk of the game against the Broncos, we were where we wanted to be.

“You’ve got to give the Broncos credit, they scrambled really hard and probably saved five or six opportunities right down on their tryline.

“It was a much better performance. I know supporters and everyone else will look at the scoreboard – we look at the performance and that was an improved performance last week.”

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