Plans to condense the State of Origin series and lessen its impact on the NRL competition will result in a major increase in player turnover, if this year’s horrific injury toll is anything to go by.
On Friday, the full extent of Wednesday night’s carnage was confirmed, with North Queensland’s Brent Tate (ACL, season), fellow-Cowboy Matt Scott (cheekbone, six weeks) and Sydney Rooster Michael Jennings (arm, six weeks) the big-name casualties.
In addition, Manly’s Anthony Watmough will miss four weeks through suspension and Canterbury halfback Trent Hodkinson is struggling with a leg cork.
Parramatta’s Will Hopoate (shoulder) will travel with his Eels teammates to Melbourne and is expected to play against the Storm on Sunday.
The controversial topic of Origin scheduling is sure to be on the agenda when the game’s powerbrokers meet at the end of the season, but the past few weeks have proven there’s no perfect solution.
Newcastle coach Wayne Bennett has led calls for the three-game series to take place within a month rather than two, with the aim of reducing the crippling effect which player unavailability has on the quality of club football.
However, if this year’s Origin series was played with just one week in between each match as proposed by Bennett, the NRL’s showpiece event would have been robbed of even more big-name stars than it already has.
For example, Queensland superstars Billy Slater, Greg Inglis and Daly Cherry-Evans all made it in the nick of time for Origin II but, under a more condensed format, they may have missed the entire series.
Players admit the intensity and brutality of Origin football has gone to a new level in 2014, and that’s been reflected in the high rate of injuries.
From the Origin opener on May 28 – Cooper Cronk, Brett Morris and Josh Morris all suffered serious injuries that ruled them out for the series.
Sam Thaiday and Greg Bird didn’t play in Brisbane but were available for Sydney.
Injuries and suspensions are going to occur regardless of the format and schedule, but Origin’s current system which starts in late May and ends in early July at least increases the chances of stars being available for their states.
However, that doesn’t help clubs who are forced to limp through the middle third of the year with uncertainty over their roster.
The NRL competition suffers significantly with crowds down and the intensity and standard of play diminished.
Powerbrokers will consider all possibilities but it’s unlikely the NRL will do anything which compromises the State of Origin product.
Record crowds and television audiences have watched the first two games.
Tate, 32, is said to be considering his future at the Cowboys, with whom he is contracted until the end of 2015.
“Once the swelling in his knee subsides, Tate will undergo surgery,” the club said on their website.
“This will occur some time in the next fortnight.”