Coach's Box: Injuries are no excuse

While the round one injury toll last weekend (17 players) seemed high - and was more damaging for some clubs than others - you have to put it into perspective. Teams have a 25-man squad - that's close to two lots of 13, so as a coach you should be able to cope with injuries.

I understand and I've been around long enough to know you can't cover your best men. If you lose a Darren Lockyer you're not going to get a Darren Lockyer to replace him next week.

In fact there is no guarantee that you can cover them but you have to help people to fill the roles. Integrating the younger players in your 25 as you go, starting in the pre-season, helps.

That's where I think the utility player is going to get recruited more in future though - the fellow who can play centre, backrow and five-eighth at a pinch and, if he had to, fullback. The type of player I mean is someone like a Jason Hooper, who used to play with the Dragons and St Helens.

Injuries are something you can't control as a coach, so you have to be able to roll with them - and find some positives.

And while most teams who win the competition have usually had the least number of players used, a coach would be a hypocrite if he whinged about injuries. You can't say 'poor bugger' or use it as an excuse; it's the way it is.

If the injury is not season-ending and you know they will be back in three, four or eight weeks, then as a coach you think about winning as many games as you can in their absence and getting them back fresh and ready.

That happened to me with the Cowboys a few years back and when the player returned he added so much to the team. It was a great lift.

What can also be a positive with injuries is that it creates opportunities for other young blokes. It makes you give a young bloke a go like Sam Williams for Canberra last weekend.

I may be old school and while I said you can't control injuries, maybe it is time to trial only allowing two people in the tackle in some other competition like U16s or 18s to see if it has any effect.

I'm not one to jump up and down and say we shouldn't have three in a tackle and we have to rule it out, but maybe there is something out there and we should look at it in another area.

My tips for Round 2: Panthers, Raiders, Storm, Tigers, Cowboys, Bulldogs, Roosters, Dragons.

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