Kent: Tired of fatigue excuse in 18th man hysteria

At this time when the game is in another state of great flux who ever figured it would be the swashbuckling chairman, Peter V'landys, who would be the voice of moderation.

V'landys wants proof that this combination of increased speed, combined with the increased fatigue, is responsible for the heavy injury toll suffered through the first three rounds.

It reached a critical point in round three when Cronulla ran out of reserves on the bench and Canberra was down to one replacement for the final 68 minutes against the Warriors.

Yet, hang on …

If the Raiders lost three players in the first 12 minutes, how could that be attributed to fatigue?

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Peter V'landys isn’t jumping to conclusions. Picture: Jonathan Ng
Peter V'landys isn’t jumping to conclusions. Picture: Jonathan Ng


In Monday's The Daily Telegraph V'landys asked Dean Ritchie "for one instance" when the fatigue and increased speed were responsible for the high injury toll.

There isn't one.

Later in same article Dr Nathan Gibbs, who first played for Souths in 1978 and has been around the game ever since, and is an advocate for injured players having a player there to replace them, pointed out how the reduced off-season saw most teams go into round one with just one trial instead of the common three trials to bring up their match fitness.

That could also explain the injuries last season, when the season resumed cold after the nine-week COVID-19 shutdown.

Not everybody is convinced an 18th man will improve the game.

Parramatta coach Brad Arthur likes the attrition now being called upon. Canberra coach Ricky Stuart said he was never prouder of his dressing room than after hanging on but falling to the Warriors in the final minutes.

V'landys wants data.

Somebody sent him compelling statistics of the amount of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries that some might use to make the case for slowing the game down.

Already this season there have been three season ending ACLs, most notably the loss of Luke Keary, and that was more than enough for some to justify a call for an extra player.

The Roosters immediately blew from $5.50 chances to $11 chances after Luke Keary blow his ACL against Souths on Friday.

There were 19 ACL injuries last season, when new rules picked the game, and just 12 the season before. Here we can see the case for an 18th man taking shape.

But there were 15 in 2018, when the game was slower, and 19 in 2017 and 24 in 2016. The evidence is hardly compelling that the rule changes of the past 12 months have driven a rise in injuries.



V'landys also knows that doctors are being far more vigilant this season with concussion injuries which would explain the rise in players not allowed to return to the field.

Yet a look at the amount of concussions suffered, and head injury assessments, also fails to make a case the faster game is wreaking carnage, as some claim.

There were 81 concussions last season and 227 HIAs. The season before, under the slower rules, there were 92 concussions and 257 HIAs ordered. The 2018 season had 94 (236), with 92 (257) in 2017 and 94 (276) in 2018.




The coaches were the strongest advocates against the game's move last season to quicken the game, introduce fatigue, and lift the entertainment factor.

Their reasons were simple and logical.

Coaches like certainty. The one thing coaches can't catch against is fatigue, because fatigue brings mistakes, and teams that make mistakes lead to coaches joining the unemployment line.

So there is little wonder some coaches are already pushing for an extra player, sitting fresh on the bench.

Coaches have corrupted the game not since the beginning, but almost.

In the beginning rugby league was entirely a 13-man game. When a player was stretchered off hurt he was not replaced, the team soldiered on with 12.

Eventually common sense prevailed and they decided to allow injured players to be replaced.

So coaches had players fake injuries so they could get fresh players on late in the game.


Parramatta Eels coach Brad Arthur is a fan of attrition. Picture: Jonathan Ng
Parramatta Eels coach Brad Arthur is a fan of attrition. Picture: Jonathan Ng


Eventually common sense prevailed, again, and somebody said the whole charade was ridiculous and players were allowed to be replaced without injury.

Then coaches began noticing not all their players were needed to replace injured teammates so they began using replacements for tactical purposes.

And that is what has been missed in all the debate about the need for an 18th man.

Every NRL team already begins every game with four reserves.

All teams choose not to keep the four players fresh in case of injury and instead choose to use them for tactical purposes, swapping out a middle forward after 25-30 minutes, for instance.

That's on them, though.

Originally published as Kent: Tired of fatigue excuse in 18th man hysteria

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