Canberra coach Ricky Stuart said he mitigated the risk of injury in the Auckland Nines tournament by only sending players who had a lengthy pre-season.
If they’re not ready, don’t send them.
That was Canberra coach Ricky Stuart’s approach for navigating the treacherous Auckland Nines tournament with an injury free player roster.
Barring any injuries in their trial against Newcastle in Tamworth on Saturday, the Raiders should enter round one of the NRL with all players in their squad fit and firing to go for the first time in a long time.
It’s a different story for their opponents, who have lost five-eighth Jarrod Mullen for up to four months with a hamstring injury.
Mullen’s absence adds to a list of injuries resulting from the Nines, including a season ending knee injury to North Queensland fullback Lachlan Coote and a 16-week sideline stint for South Sydney five-eighth Luke Keary (shoulder).
While not pointing the finger at any rival clubs, Stuart said his side’s injury-free campaign was partly thanks to only sending players who already had a large chunk of pre-season under their belt – even if that meant holding back his star power for the “great concept”.
“Which is why I didn’t send away (Anthony) Milford and (Josh) Papalii, because they hadn’t had the right preparation for it,” he said.
“They’ve only been back training four weeks and I didn’t feel as though it was the right time to go away and play Nines.
“It’s a different brand of football, there’s a lot more work done under fatigue.”
Stuart said he was glad the concept was a success, as there was a lot to benefit from if the playing roster was managed appropriately.
“It’s a real shame to see the injuries, and it’s a pity, but from my club’s point of view is that we got a lot out of it,” he said.
“We sent a lot of boys away who had never played first grade before, who had never played in front of such big crowds in such a big atmosphere.
“They got a hell of a lot out of it.”