Rugby league players will tell you there’s no tougher sport on the planet and it’s hard to argue after teams were ravaged by injury on Saturday.
In the day’s first match between Canberra and the Warriors — which saw the Kiwi side secure a thrilling three-point win courtesy of some final-second heroics — it took just 13 minutes for the Raiders to be torn apart.
An ankle injury to lock Joseph Tapine was followed by concussions to Ryan James and Sebastian Kris after a sickening head clash and less than a quarter of an hour into the match, the Green Machine was down to one fit man on the bench.
Coach Ricky Stuart praised his side’s bravery before storming out of a brief press conference and later in the night it was the Sharks and Eels who felt the pinch.
Parramatta halfback Mitchell Moses was knocked senseless in the first half after getting his head in the wrong position while making a tackle and was ruled out of the match, while winger Maika Sivo left the field in the second half but passed his Head Injury Assessment (HIA) and was allowed to return.
Just like Canberra, Cronulla was decimated as the hits kept coming. In fact, the men from the Shire suffered even more, left with no fit players left on the bench after halftime.
Captain Wade Graham, Briton Nikora and Will Kennedy were all rubbed out with concussion in the opening 40 minutes, while Sione Katoa injured his knee.
It was absolute carnage — as the image below reveals.
The Sharks just couldn’t keep up and were overrun 28-4 by the Eels.
The afternoon’s second game wasn’t without its injuries either, with Bulldogs hooker Jeremy Marshall-King leaving the field due to a foot injury.
Concerns aired in the pre-season about the increased speed of the game because of a host of rule changes were followed by commentary that rugby league may have gone too far in its effort to make the NRL even faster.
After round one witnessed some seriously quick contests, fans and pundits — including Penrith icon Mark Geyer — questioned whether it was reasonable to expect players to maintain such a hectic pace over the course of the season.
Increased fatigue has long been hailed as a necessity in the game. Those arguing for fewer interchanges, for example, believe it would open up matches closer to full-time, give the little men more of a chance to shine and reduce the risk of injury as collisions between tired players would not be as severe.
But there was nothing soft about the hits being felt in Canberra and at Bankwest Stadium.
After a horror day of injuries, veteran sports journalist David Riccio was among those to ask whether the NRL should implement an 18th man emergency substitute rule to help benches decimated by HIA protocols.
“Time for an 18th man for teams who lose a player fouled out of the game due to a HIA,” he tweeted.
Of the 13 players who sustained injuries on Saturday, more than half left the field over concussion concerns.
In fact, Saturday’s games featured double the average amount of concussions per round over the past two years (3.6), as reported by Brien Seeney — who goes by the NRL Physio on Twitter.
“Over the past 2 seasons, there has been approximately 3.6 concussions per round. In the last 24 hours 7 players suffered a concussion,” he wrote. “Horrible day, hopefully all involved recover well.”
Seeney also issued an alarming list of injuries suffered by stars in recent times, including bloodbaths on Thursday and Friday night.
Lindsay Collins was taken to hospital after a shocking head knock, Lachlan Lam is facing six weeks out with a knee injury while gun halfback Luke Keary will likely miss the rest of the season after hurting his ACL.