Just one year after the NRL competition was expanded to include a second Brisbane team, and the wear and tear is starting to show.

Aside from including two more rounds per season over the pandemic period, the NRL has also added and an array of new exhibition matches, representative matches, and trial matches – in their efforts to get as much game-time on TV screens as possible within one season.

This unsustainably long NRL calendar has been forced upon players following the rise of on-demand sports streaming service and online betting, as the competition’s corporate sponsorship and broadcast partners demand more juice for their squeeze – and the game’s bosses happily oblige to keep the money flowing into every pocket except that of the athlete and their families.

As a result of this, it seems that the game is now faced with a spree of injuries to their star players, some of whom are playing up to 35 matches per season between the 27 rounds, trials and rep games.

While 35 matches per season may sound like nothing to the average NRL fan who is quick to criticise footballers for complaining about getting to live their dreams on a salary that matches the average unskilled FIFO miner, it’s undeniable that these minutes add up.

Without even considering the high-impact training sessions that take up most of their week, this average of ’35 matches’ equals almost two full days of professional contact sport a year. With most players bodies experiencing the equivalent bodily trauma of a minor car accident every match.

This week, before the 2024 comp has even made it to round 4, some of the biggest names in the game have been ruled out for the best part of the season with the type of injuries that occur when human bodies have been extremely overworked.

Soft tissue damage, rushed injury recovery and unidentifiable strains have left the game without some of their most marketable stars.

And with the RLPA players strike already in the rear-view, it looks as though this is the new normal for NRL players.



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