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NRL Considering Extra Substitute Amid Injury Crisis

T
he Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) is set to discuss the immediate introduction of an extra substitute Tuesday for NRL teams, after the opening rounds of the 2021 season have seen a number of teams depleted during games due to injuries.

The increased number of injuries led to the Rugby League Players Association (RLPA) calling for the urgent introduction of an extra substitute, with the players claiming the increased pace of the competition this year with new rules is contributing to increased injury numbers.

Over the first three rounds, the NRL has recorded 17 game-ending head injuries, up from 11 at the same period last season, and the rate of concussion per round has increased to 5.6 so far this year, compared to 3.6 per round last year, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

As part of the push for an extra substitute, the RLPA has requested year-to-date data on injuries from the NRL, with RLPA CEO, Clint Newton, saying: “What we have said is by increasing fatigue you are increasing the chances [of injury].”

“We’ll let the data help us fully form our views, but one of the main contributing factors has to be the fact we’ve increased the intensity of matches.

“Why is there such lionising of fatigue?

“Why is it so critical?

“How much is too much?

“And have we crossed that line?

“We’re fully cognisant we’re in the entertainment business.

“We are also in the human being industry as well.

“We’ve got to make sure we’re not putting the game’s greatest asset, the players, at risk.

“We’re never going to be in a position to eliminate injuries, but where is the line in the sand…

“The 18th man is an important one to introduce as soon as possible, but it’s not the answer,” Newton said.

The discussion comes after the AFL recently introduced a medical substitute before the start of the 2021 AFL season following extensive conversation around the long-term effects of concussion in sport.

Speaking on the increased injuries in the league, ARLC chairman, Peter V’landys, said the extra substitute will be examined, but compared the injury numbers to “freak situations”.

“We will have a look at the 18th man because if everyone does the right thing and protects the welfare of the player, naturally there’s going to be these instances where we might have a spate of [players ruled out of a game because of concussion],” V’landys said.

“This is only one round, but we monitor all the statistics with injuries game after game.

“If there was something to happen, it would be for the freak situations like we had with Cronulla and Canberra.

“There would be belts and braces on it for emergencies like we had on the weekend.

“It’s actually pleasing the clubs are adhering to the protocols, which are a lot more vigilant.

“Previously, where players may have went back on, they are being subject to a much more cautious approach, which I absolutely welcome,” he said.

A discussion on Big Sports Breakfast between Phil Rothfield and Laurie Daley on concussion injuries and the extra substitute, led to a claim the game is “getting too tough”.

“There are too many injuries in the game,” Rothfield said.

“The game is getting too tough, it really is.

“These new rules have changed it, and something has to be done.

“I’m not convinced it is the rules.

“It is the size of the athletes, the way they train.

“The human body was not designed for impact like these fellas are copping at the moment,” he said.