Huge injury toll hits hard
David Furner might have been left beaming by the performance of his injury-hit side against Cronulla on Sunday, but the Raiders coach admits he is seriously concerned by what the coming weeks have to offer.
The Raiders are one of half a dozen clubs already facing an injury crisis in the wake of a brutal opening round of NRL action, with captain Alan Tongue, forward Joe Picker and new arrival Brett White all in doubt for Friday night's clash with Brisbane at Canberra Stadium.
Five-eighth Terry Campese has already been ruled out for most of the season with a knee injury while halfback Matt Orford and star fullback Josh Dugan were both late withdrawals against Cronulla last weekend.
Furner won't know the full extent of his injury woes until tomorrow, with Tongue unable to have scans on his injured shoulder yesterday due to the Canberra Day public holiday. However, he admitted the short-term prognosis for his side was bleak as they try to get their big-name stars back on the park.
"It's definitely a concern," Furner told NRL.com. "You always want to put your best team on the park and obviously we've had a couple of guys with some problems over the past few weeks.
"This is the time of year – Rounds 2 and 3 and 4 – where you're trying to get combinations working and you really don't want to be losing too many of those combinations at this time.
"So although I'm extremely pleased with what the boys did [on Sunday] and we've eased the pressure of having to get that first win, we've still got a lot of work to do."
Furner said he was confident Joe Picker would recover from a bad cork in time to take his place against the Broncos but didn't yet know how far Dugan and Orford had progressed.
"They both had a bit of a run yesterday (Monday) but it's too early to tell. "We've got an extremely short turnaround this week and that makes life a lot tougher for everyone.
"If we were playing on Sunday I'd say they were both a good chance but we'll just have to wait and see."
While Canberra at least softened the blow of their injury dilemma by winning their season opener, the outlook isn't as bright for Round 1 losers South Sydney, Manly and the Warriors.
Souths were hit particularly hard against the Roosters last Friday night with Sam Burgess (shoulder), Ben Lowe (foot) and Scott Geddes (Achilles) all facing lengthy stints on the sidelines.
The Rabbitohs received some good news late yesterday with scans revealing Burgess would miss only a month of football and not the three months that was first feared, but the news wasn't so good for Lowe and Geddes. Lowe will miss between three to four months while the unlucky Geddes can already start planning for 2012.
Manly will also face a tough time in search of their first win of the season against the Roosters on Sunday with captain Jamie Lyon out for up to a month with a hamstring strain and Shane Rodney to miss six weeks with a shoulder injury.
Lyon's fellow co-captain Jason King is facing a week on the sidelines after being charged by the match review committee for lifting a knee.
The Warriors received the bad news they had been expecting yesterday with Manu Vatuvei ruled out for eight weeks with medial ligament damage suffered during his side's shock 24-18 loss to Parramatta at Eden Park on Saturday night.
Vatuvei's importance to the Kiwi outfit can't be understated after he scored 20 tries and averaged 120 metres per game during the club's run to the finals last year.
Newcastle also suffered heavily for their big win over Penrith on Sunday with hooker Isaac De Gois going under the knife with a broken thumb and likely to be out for a month while newcomer Neville Costigan will miss three months with a broken arm.
And Canterbury could find themselves without strike centre Josh Morris for a likely four weeks after he left the field late in last night's 24-14 win over Wests Tigers.
Furner said every club would endure their injury problems throughout the year but that it was the timing that had taken everyone by surprise.
"That's where the challenge lies," he said. "We responded exceptionally well last weekend but it's whether we can continue to do the same over the next few weeks that will matter most. That's the important thing for us."