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Injury Curse: Who Are the NRL’s Unluckiest Players?

Injuries will play a big part in how your team goes this season. Who do the NRL injury gods have it in for at your club?

Who’s Most At Risk For Your Club?

Kotoni Staggs

Club: Brisbane Broncos
Age: 23
Debut: 2018
Games: 51

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Kotoni Staggs is one of the most dangerous centres in the NRL, proving he can be a match winner with the Brisbane Broncos.

The last two seasons have been unkind to Staggs. In June 2020 he injured his hamstring at training, before tearing his ACL at the end of the season in the Broncos’ loss to the Cowboys. Hopes were high that 2021 would be better, however Staggs broke down with a MCL injury – ironically against the Cowboys – in late July.

With a conversion rate of 26 tries in 51 games, the Broncos could do with an injury-free Staggs in 2022.

Jarrod Croker

Club: Canberra Raiders
Age: 31
Debut: 2009
Games: 291

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Age and a heavy burden over the years on Canberra Raiders captain Jarrod Croker might be catching up with him ahead of the 2022 NRL premiership.

Nine games short of reaching the 300-game club for the Green Machine, Croker’s knee injury is chronic and has seen him drop in form in the twilight of his career. The knee injury is not new, with Croker pulling out of the Kangaroo’s Four Nations train-on squad as far back as 2016. He missed the first two rounds of the 2017 season (which the Raiders both lost) after a knee injury during the pre-season All-Stars game. In 2018, it ended his season during the round 18 clash against the Cowboys.

Croker will go down in history as a legend of the club, the greatest point scorer for the Raiders in a career which deserved to have an NSW Origin call-up during his prime.

Raymond Faitala-Mariner

Club: Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs
Age: 28
Debut: 2015
Games: 87

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Injuries have set back the career of New Zealand International Raymond Faitala-Mariner. This week he returned to the training paddock at Belmore hoping to continue his NRL career.

Since 2018, Faitala-Mariner has played just 45 matches. His run of injuries started in the Kiwis’ Test against England in Denver where he suffered a PCL knee injury and broken hand.

At the start of 2020 he broke down with a syndesmosis injury, however he played all 20 matches for the Bulldogs.

One-and-a-half games into the 2021 season, Faitala-Mariner’s season was over after a foot injury against the Panthers. Surgery complications from that injury has put his career in doubt.

Matt Moylan

Club: Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks
Age: 30
Debut: 2013
Games: 144

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When the Penrith Panthers and Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks made a player swap between Matt Moylan and James Maloney at the end of 2017, it looked like the Shire picked up a genuine matchwinner.

It hasn’t quite worked out for Moylan, appearing for the Sharks 55 times in four seasons at the club.

Moylan’s injury troubles started as far back as 2015 when he injured his foot mid-season against the Eels. This kept him out until the corresponding fixture in round 5 the next season.

Towards the end of 2017, Moylan was showing the early signs of a hamstring problem which would hamper his career. He missed six weeks for the Sharks in 2019 and the issue flared up a couple of times in 2020. In addition to his hamstring problems, Moylan injured his calf at the start of the 2020 pre-season and was sidelined for two months with the same problem last season.

It’s incredible to think Moylan was first choice fullback ahead of James Tedesco in the first two games of the 2016 Origin series. While Tedesco’s game has gone to another level, Moylan has struggled to have the same impact that he did with the Panthers in 2017.

AJ Brimson

Club: Gold Coast Titans
Age: 23
Debut: 2018
Games: 59

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Star Gold Coast half AJ Brimson has had his fair share of problems over the last two years.

The twenty-three-year-old was reduced to nine club games in 2020. A stress fracture in his back pre-season kept him off the training paddock until the start of August, just over half-way through the COVID delayed season.

Selected to debut for Queensland Maroons in the post-season Origin series, Brimson required surgery for a ligament injury out of their Origin win in Adelaide.

It was another disrupted start 2021 campaign with ongoing issues with a bruised knee. On the eve of the NRL Finals series, Brimson broke his jaw in accidental contact with Latrell Mitchell. This would see him again miss part of the pre-season.

Brimson is an integral part of the Titans squad who are looking to gain traction from their 2021 NRL Finals appearance where they were edged out by the Sydney Roosters in Townsville.

Tom Trbojevic

Club: Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Age: 25
Debut: 2015
Games: 114

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2021 Dally M winner Tom Trbojevic has followed in the footsteps of his predecessor, Brett Stewart, in many ways; superstar fullbacks with try scoring prowess and injuries overshadowing their talent.

Trbojevic is the most injury-cursed player currently playing in the NRL.

Two games into his career, Turbo injured his ankle against Penrith Panthers which set him back for a few weeks.

Graduating from the Holden Cup in 2015, Trbojevic required post-season surgery to correct a high ankle sprain picked up in the ANZAC Day clash with Newcastle. In his first year taking over from Brett Stewart in 2017, he was out for an extended period after injuring his MCL. Early in 2018 he injured his ankle. A torn pec and the start of hamstring problems played havoc on his 2019 campaign.

The Manly fullback continued to struggle with his hamstring in 2020 after a Grade 2 tear. He also suffered a shoulder injury in the second last round against the Gold Coast Titans.

A pre-season hamstring injury was the most recent setback in 2021, missing the opening month of the season. His return against the Gold Coast Titans at Mudgee signalled the start of the Sea Eagles’ climb run to the NRL Finals.

Manly fans will be hoping a fit Turbo will equate to going all the way in 2022.

Christian Welch

Club: Melbourne Storm
Age: 27
Debut: 2015
Games: 117

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Melbourne Storm forward Christian Welch has received two major setbacks in his career.

In 2017, he ruptured his ACL in the Storms’ 34-22 win over the St George-Illawarra Dragons at WIN Stadium. The same injury put an end to his season in 2019 at a time where Welch was gaining interest from several clubs for his services. Last season on the eve of the State of Origin series, Welch had a flare up of the knee problem which forced him to sit out a game.

In addition to the knee issues, Welch suffered two significant concussions in 2021. The first was during the Maroons 50-6 loss to New South Wales in Townsville last June. He also was forced off the field early in the Storms’ Grand Final Qualifying loss to the Panthers at Suncorp Stadium in September.

Jayden Brailey

Club: Newcastle Knights
Age: 25
Debut: 2017
Games: 95

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Jayden Brailey has suffered a setback to his 2022 Newcastle Knights campaign, injuring his Achilles during pre-season training. This week the club announced that he’d require surgery with the hope of a return in the second part of the season.

It’s not the first major injury for the former Sharks hooker. In his second game in Knights colours in 2020, Brailey injured his ACL which ended his season. Back in 2017 in his debut season for the Sharks, he was on the receiving end of a broken jaw from Sea Eagles utility Dylan Walker which saw Brailey spend two months on the sideline.

To play 95 games in 5 seasons is more than reasonable, however the type of major injuries may come back to haunt Brailey later in his career.

Valentine Holmes

Club: North Queensland Cowboys
Age: 26
Debut: 2014
Games: 137

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The hopes of North Queensland Cowboys having a reasonable season sit with the fitness of Valentine Holmes.

Along with Jason Taumalolo, Holmes takes up a large amount of salary cap space in the Cowboys roster and any time the pair is out through injury, the club is adversely affected.

There was criticism of the way the Cowboys managed Holmes’ ankle injury in 2020 where he was out for six weeks after their loss to the Roosters in early July after missing two games a month prior with the same problem playing against the Warriors.

Last year, Holmes spent time on the sideline with an AC joint problem that he suffered in the final State of Origin game clash at Suncorp Stadium.

He missed the first two rounds of the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 2017 campaign through a hamstring complaint during the pre-season trials.

Ryan Matterson

Club: Parramatta Eels
Age: 27
Debut: 2016
Games: 120

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Ryan Matterson is a key man risk for the Parramatta Eels ahead of the 2022 NRL season.

While Matterson has stayed away from significant injuries during his career, the amount of concussion sustained over the last couple of seasons is concerning for his future in the game. There are two major concussions that are worth noting. The 2020 clash against the Wests Tigers after attempting to tackle Russell Packer, and Felise Kaufusi’s elbow connecting with Matterson’s head in the second round in 2021.

Let’s hope that Matterson can keep clear of head knocks in 2022 to avoid suffering a similar fate to former Roosters’ teammates Boyd Cordner and Jake Friend.

Dylan Edwards

Club: Penrith Panthers
Age: 25
Debut: 2016
Games: 106

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At the end of last year, Edwards was in a moon boot ahead of the 2021 NRL Grand Final decider against the South Sydney Rabbitohs. Reports suggested he was playing with a fractured foot for some time but played through the pain. He produced an excellent performance as the Panthers won their third premiership.

Edwards’ first major injury came in 2018 when he was required to have a season ending shoulder reconstruction following the Panthers clash with the Bulldogs in late April. In 2020, his start to the season was delayed after having ankle surgery in the pre-season.

Dylan Edwards plays such an important role at the Panthers fullback, that any injury could unsettle the team’s line-up.

Josh Mansour

Club: South Sydney Rabbitohs
Age: 31
Debut: 2012
Games: 169

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Veteran NRL winger Josh Mansour has had his fair share of knee problems which could limit his game time in 2022.

In 2016, Sauce injured his knee during a training session during the Kangaroo’s Four Nations tournament. This saw him spend around six months on the sideline. Last year facing his former Panthers side at Suncorp Stadium, he suffered another knee injury which would end his season.

Another major setback happened in 2018 when he clashed with Gold Coast Titans’ Anthony Don in contesting a ball. Mansour suffered horrific facial injuries which required surgery.

Mansour is off contract at the Rabbitohs at the end of the season. His experience is important in a squad trying to go one better in 2022.

Jack Bird

Club: St George-Illawarra Dragons
Age: 26
Debut: 2015
Games: 106

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Jack Bird was a superstar in the NRL with the Sharks. Expectations were extremely high when he was a premier signing for the Broncos in 2018. Three seasons and seventeen games later, Bird left the club without making an impact.

The bad run of injuries started in 2016 when Bird injured his elbow in Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks’ historic Grand Final win over the Melbourne Storm. In 2017, he nursed a shoulder injury through the season. Ten rounds into his debut season at the Broncos, Bird required season ending sternum injury. Against his former Sharks side in 2019, Bird suffered an ACL injury and lightning struck twice when he missed the full 2020 campaign breaking down at training with the same knee.

2021 was kind to the talented Bird. Hopefully he can make it through a second season without any major issues.

Luke Keary

Club: Sydney Roosters
Age: 29
Debut: 2013
Games: 157

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A player of Luke Keary’s calibre should have played more representative football at this stage of his career, however his individual achievements at club level will put him up there as one of the best players in the modern era.

In 2015 he was ruled out of the annual City Vs Country match with a foot injury.

Late in 2016, Keary injured his hamstring which ended his season.

2017 was a rare injury-free season before starting 2018 with a broken jaw in the pre-season, before winning the Clive Churchill Medal in the Roosters defeat of the Melbourne Storm.

2019 was no better, with Keary suffering a serious concussion when he was in line to play his first Origin game for the NSW Blues. It was one of several concussions he would suffer in an 18-month period. He was still on hand to deliver the Roosters another title when they edged out the Canberra Raiders.

2021 would deliver the latest blow, rupturing his ACL in the Roosters 16-26 loss to the Rabbitohs in Round Three. Keary is expected back on the training paddock by the end of this month.

Will 2022 deliver a better season for both Keary and his Roosters club after an injury-riddled season?

Tohu Harris

Club: New Zealand Warriors
Age: 30
Debut: 2013
Games: 182

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Tohu Harris is due back in mid-2022 after rupturing his ACL against the Penrith Panthers. It was a cruel afternoon for the Warriors at Suncorp Stadium, who also lost Roger Tuivasa-Sheck and Wayde Egan in quick succession.

He’s been reduced to 65 games in four seasons at the club, with 20 of them coming in the 2020 season where Harris remained injury-free.

Harris endured a niggling foot injury which started in 2016 when representing the Kiwis against the Kangaroos in Perth, which flared up mid-season in 2019. In 2018 he missed two months in total after injuring both left, and right needs in separate incidents.

The ACL injury wasn’t Harris’ only setback in 2021. He suffered concussion back in April and picked up an AC Joint injury in the Warriors golden point loss to the Dragons, most remembered for ‘Barbecue-Gate’.

When he is on field and fit, Harris is one of the outstanding forwards in the competition.

Jacob Liddle

Club: Wests Tigers
Age: 25
Debut: 2016
Games: 56

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Jacob Liddle was the heir apparent to Robbie Farah at the Wests Tigers. However, Liddle has been riddled with bad luck since his career began.

In 2017, Liddle required a double shoulder reconstruction after leaving the field early in the Tigers loss to Manly at Brookvale Oval.

Two years’ later and Liddle’s return to Brookvale Oval in the corresponding clash against Manly saw him suffer a 12-month setback, damaging all three ligaments in his knee.

Liddle returned in August 2020 to play six straight NRL matches but was out of favour with Michael Maguire in 2021 after being dropped in Round Five, only to return four rounds later in a brilliant effort against an Origin-depleted Panthers outfit.

That performance against the Penrith Panthers showed that if Liddle can stay relatively free of injury, he’ll be a dangerous dummy half in the NRL with his speed out of dummy half.

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