October 21, 2021

‘The most sinister of all situations’: Why the NRL needs to look after their most important commodity before they kill a player on live TV

3 min read

BY CURTIS WOODWARD

@woodward_curtis

Rugby league needed Peter V’landys for about two seconds – that murky, worrying time when COVID-19 hit Australian sport like a tsunami. It needed a lift and V’landys went in like a feral dog and got us all beating our chests.

Now we are seeing the side effects of Stockholm Syndrome.

With little consultation, the NRL started the season with mad new rules like the ‘Six Again’ and two-point field goals.

Rugby league never needed such mammoth changes.

The reasoning was State of Origin ratings were down. Despite the fact they played the series after the grand final and the regular neutrals from places like Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia were ready for some cricket and were done for the year.

To put it simply, the NRL isn’t rugby league.

It’s a Frankenstein’s monster put together by suits with little understanding of what makes our game great.

Peter Beattie may not have known the Sea Eagles from the Hawks but at least he listened to his minions. It appears PVL doesn’t answer to anyone despite the fact that he only has this role because of the mighty code that evolved before him.

On Friday night at Bankwest Stadium, heavyweight teams Parramatta and the Sydney Roosters went at each other.

Several Roosters went down with injury.

Some will say that injuries happen in any match.

But many injuries occur when players – on both sides of the field – are under duress. They don’t have the ability to make the right decisions. What we have right now in 2021 is hundreds of professional athletes – trained to hurt and pillage and do whatever they can to win – going ballistic across the ground like pin balls.

Players are hurting.

They can’t keep up.

V’landys is running the NRL and its players like he would his horses.

Expendable commodities.

Just before half-time at Parramatta, Roosters half Drew Hutchison went for the line and was hit by a covering Dylan Brown. The problem for Brown was he smashed Hutchison with his knees and made no attempt to make a tackle.

Seconds earlier, James Tedesco was bashed in the head by a Parramatta shoulder.

Hutchison came from the field with broken ribs, punctured lungs and a trip to the hospital.

The players aren’t going to stop doing what they do.

Paid incredibly well and knowing that every little mistake can ruin their team’s season, pressure from fans and the media, they’ll keep pressing and pushing the envelope.

It’s up the NRL to look after them.

But it’s not going to happen when the only thing that matters is the television ratings that come out the next day.

We all know that there have been some horribly sad episodes in park footy recently.

All it takes is a knock in the wrong spot and someone could collapse.

Sometimes they never wake up.

Are we that naive to think that these NRL players aren’t that desperate to win that something sinister couldn’t happen?

The most sinister of all situations.

It only takes one accident.

One accident at the wrong time.

How an 8-team NRL Summer League could be an answer to game development and stave off pre-season player injuries

How much will TV ratings matter to the NRL if somebody is killed live on a national broadcast?

If it means so much to Dylan Brown and the Eels on a Friday night in May, what could it mean to a State of Origin star or a desperate player in a grand final in front of 80,000 fans at Homebush and millions of viewers watching at home?

How far does it go?

It goes as far as the NRL lets it.

If the Roosters lost one more player to concussion, their 18th man was a prodigy.

The only problem is he’s 17.

Under V’landys it appears they are happy to kill someone with little care for the fabric of the game or the family the player leaves behind.

@woodward_curtis

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