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Major injuries to some big name NRL stars threaten to cast a shadow over the start of the 2004 season. Test players Jason Ryles (Dragons) and Brent Tate (Broncos) have serious doubts over their immediate playing futures after what can only be described as preventable damage to their injured shoulders. Both players were hurt mid-way through the season and opinion at the time was they risked very little long-term injury even if they played on in discomfort. Only a freakish landing on the joint of the shoulder would risk more damage and low and behold, that occurred. Ryles and Tate have serious nerve damage in their shoulders as a result, and while the players made the decision to continue competing, they also put their careers on the line. Now the game may be robbed of two fantastic careers because of the ?professionalism tag? our athletes now perform under. No player likes to be seen as soft, but there must also be genuine consideration given to the long-term health of individuals over the importance of few games of rugby league.
Prop forward Martin Lang called it a day on Wednesday, announcing he would retire following the 2004 season. Lang who won his first NRL title with the Panthers last season has been carrying a damaged ankle since the end of 2002 and has decided that his body needs a rest. Interestingly Lang has indicated he plans to move to the Gold Coast when his contract with the Panthers finishes. With comments from NRL CEO David Gallop this week all but endorsing the expansion to a 16-team competition for 2006, the then 30-year-old Lang would be a marquee signing for a Gold Coast side. His body would have a year of recuperation and the appeal of playing in his backyard would be a compelling argument to return to the NRL.
The Wests Tigers signing of Jason Moodie is perplexing at best. While the 29-year-old is far from finished, the quickness in which the Tigers signed the former Parramatta and Newcastle winger must frustrate some of the current outside backs at the club. The likes of Daniel Fitzhenry, Shane Elford, John Wilson, Benji Marshall, Robert Miles, Luke Covell and Dene Halatau are already fighting for the four three-quarter positions, and the addition of Moodie only congests the backline. Pat Richards is out with a long-term leg injury, but perhaps the club should have looked towards the future by blooding youngsters like Simon Greally and Dean Collis with more NRL experience. That being said, Moodie is a good winger and good luck to him at his new club. This is also not the first time Tim Sheens has signed a veteran winger, last season Robbie Beckett returned from the UK but only appeared in four games. In other signing news, former North Queensland pair Paul Dezolt and David Thompson have signed one year deals with the Warriors and Rabbitohs respectively.
Finally, controversy has surrounded this NRL pre-season and sadly, at least one major case looks set to carry into the regular season. With the brilliance of the 2003 season now seemingly a distant memory, the kick-off of Round 1 cannot come quickly enough. The more football there is to discuss the better, as no-one gains from any of the situations that have transpired so far.
Bring on the footy?
Warrick NICOLSON ========================= Freelance Sports Journalist NICOLSON SPORTS CONSULTANCY Ph: 0402 851 485 Fax: 02 9653 1483 [email protected] =========================