Canterbury football boss Phil Gould has offered a partial solution to curb serious injuries in the NRL.
The Bulldogs were rocked by a pectoral tear for star recruit Viliame Kikau at training on Tuesday, adding to a casualty ward that has threatened to stunt the club’s growth under new coach Cameron Ciraldo.
The Belmore club has listed as many as 10 players on its injured list from week to week this season, making it close to impossible to name the required 22-player squad each Tuesday.
READ MORE: Icon’s worrying explanation for Cowboys’ struggle
READ MORE: AFL boss’ stern ultimatum to exiled Kangaroo
READ MORE: Tigers star’s plea over ‘very saddening’ theft
Gould knows his club is being hit hard at the moment, but denied the suggestion this year’s injury toll across the NRL is at an all-time high.
“You have years where you have bad injury runs. A lot of it is just the nature of the sport, a collision sport and you’re going to have injuries,” Gould told Wide World of Sports’ Six Tackles with Gus podcast.
“Some of it is lack of preparation and probably coming into the season underdone. A lot of it too can be because we had a couple years of COVID where there was not a lot of development football, a lot of players haven’t played a lot of football, particularly in their age years.
“So a lot of young players who are now turning 20, 21 haven’t had the hardening, haven’t had the repetitions, haven’t had the grounding and the physical development they should have had.
Stream the NRL premiership 2023 live and free on 9Now
“A lot of different things can contribute to it… and a lot is just bad luck. We play a collision sport, you’re going to get hurt.”
While Gould accepts injuries are part and parcel with rugby league, he also knows there is the possibility to limit them.
And one possible change is simple, but would no doubt attract plenty of pushback, and may never happen.
Gus FUMES over the current state of Rugby League: Six Tackles with Gus – Episode 08
“I had a report done for me by my good mate, who was the Panthers doctor for a long time… he came to me and said we have to go back to a five-metre rule,” Gould said, suggesting the defensive line be set much closer to the play-the-ball to reduce the space attackers can run into.
“The 10-metre rule was giving too much momentum into the collisions, and we needed to cut that down. We see a lot of injuries to players bringing the ball back from kick-offs… they’ve made it too hard to tackle these days, which means the collisions are different, the tackle techniques are different.
“The right margin was around seven or eight (metres). When it was the old five-metre rule we were pleading with the referees to get them back seven or eight, which allowed for the speed off the line.
“People have been pushing for them to get further and further back… which makes it harder to defend.
“I think the right margin is seven or eight. I think that’s always been the right number.”
For a daily dose of the best of the breaking news and exclusive content from Wide World of Sports, subscribe to our newsletter by clicking here!
The Mole’s team of the week: The other star who ‘terrorised’ Cowboys in return