When the Melbourne Storm and the Sydney Roosters come together, the match is always bound to grab headlines.
While it’s usually for how close the match is with seven of their last eight clashes before their round 14 clash decided by less than 10 points, this game will be more remembered for the carnage than the Storm’s surprise 24-6 win at the SCG.
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Entering the game without the likes of Cameron Smith and Cameron Munster for the Storm and Boyd Cordner, Brett Morris, Daniel Tupou and Jared Waerea-Hargraves for the Roosters, the injury toll drastically rose with five injuries coming out of the game.
The Storm lost two players with Suliasi Vunivalu suffering a broken jaw, while halfback Jahrome Hughes had a groin strain.
For the Roosters, halfback Lachlan Lam suffered an ankle injury, before Mitchell Aubusson had Storm prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona fall on his arm, leading to a potentially broken arm as he left the field in distress.
But it was Sydney five-eighth Luke Keary that had the most concern with a suspected rib injury turning to the 28-year-old being rushed to hospital with worries that he may have internal injuries.
With the three players added from the match, the Roosters now have 11 players out as the injury list continues to mount, although several should return next week.
The injury concerns aren’t just with the Roosters and Storm though with plenty of injuries across the league, including an increase in long term lay-offs.
The NRL Phyio Brien Seeney on Twitter posted major injuries, requiring more than five weeks of recovery time have increased dramatically “to 6.64 per round this season (an increase of over 60% since 2018). COVID situation a major contributor but definitely needs to be looked at”.
One of the issues being blamed is the six again rule, which has increased the speed of the game after the rule that came in during the season suspension.
Originally praised, it has been criticised by fans uncertain about the reason behind six again calls, despite the benefits of speeding up the game and having the ball in play for longer.
Speaking on Fox League’s The Late Show with Matty Johns, Roosters great Luke Ricketson was asked if he’d “seen carnage like this?”
“The injuries are horrific,” he said. “I’m not quite sure what it is. People are stalking about the time off that everyone’s had and coming back and not being conditioned for this style of football but the game’s just got a lot faster and there’s more minutes being played and people are just not adapting to it and the injuries are just going everywhere.”
It comes as both coaches from the match took aim at the new rules.
Asked if this was the worst injury toll he’d seen in the competition, two-time champion coach Trent Robinson said “without a doubt”.
“We knew the risk of it all and we assumed the risk because that’s what we are here to do,” he said.
“But I was a part of it, not having byes and the rule changes have increased the intensity by about 10 to 15 per cent. there are consequences for that, a better game and more injuries at the moment.”
Similarly, Melbourne’s champion coach Craig Bellamy called for the NRL to rethink the changes to take some of the burden off the players.
“I was really proud of our guys tonight, but I know the Roosters have got a lot of injuries and had a few more tonight,” said Bellamy.
“Losing a guy like Luke Keary, he’s one of the elite players in our competition. I thought the last 20 minutes was a bit of an ugly game to be quite honest. We had players playing in positions they’re not used to. The Roosters had that too.
“The fatigue in the game, we decided we wanted that but I’m not sure if there’s too much fatigue with the amount of teams that have got a lot of injuries.
“We’ve got two of our most influential players out and it’s not just about fatigue and soft tissue injuries.
“When people get fatigued they put their bodies in the wrong places when they make tackles or absorb the contact and you get injured from there.
“It’s something we need to have a look at, because it was like a MASH unit tonight. It seems as though there’s a lot of injuries.”