Warriors suffer as fatigue kicks in
Two unscheduled interchanges pushed the Warriors to breaking point against the Broncos on Friday night but prop Ben Matulino believes that fewer interchanges is having a positive influence on the game.
Centre Blake Ayshford (concussion) and Manu Vatuvei (rib cartilage) were forced from the field due to injury leaving the Warriors to battle on or the final 33 minutes with just two fit players on the bench.
As the game wore on and the effects of the heat, humidity and extra workload kicked in the visitors were unable to keep pace and the Broncos quickly turned a 12-10 lead into a decisive 25-10 advantage that the Warriors didn't have the energy to peg pack.
Having started from the bench, Matulino came on in the 17th minute and was unchanged in the second half, the injury to Vatuvei sending coach Andrew McFadden's rotation plans into disarray.
While he conceded there was a greater physical toll in playing bigger minutes, Matulino said that the net result was a positive one for the fans.
"It was at the 25-minute mark they said I was next to come off but as you saw we had an injury and I kept looking to the side and they said I was staying on for the rest of the game," Matulino told NRL.com.
"Compared to last year, those two less interchanges do make a difference. For some teams they have got it good with players like Jess (Melbourne prop Jesse Bromwich) but for us we're still learning about it.
"Getting those two injuries took two more off us but I think that's a good thing, if you get injured you don't get a free sub, you just go off.
"I guess it is going in the right direction. You see the smaller guys like Shaun [Johnson] and Roger [Tuivasa-Sheck] and Ben Hunt, it was all opening up a bit for them and that's good for the fans."
Warriors captain Ryan Hoffman said the double injury blow was a "reason and not an excuse" with McFadden suggesting that the reduction in interchanges from 10 to eight had made a more significant impact than many coaches were expecting.
"This is going to put a massive burden on the players to play 80 minutes, big minutes," McFadden said.
"All three of our back-rowers played 80 minutes, Ben Matulino had to play the whole second half which was a fantastic effort and you take it down to six it will be really tough.
"I think it's impacted the game more than most coaches thought it was going to."
The Broncos themselves lost winger Corey Oates to shoulder injury 10 minutes from full-time and captain Corey Parker said the change from 10 down to eight interchanges has been noticeable over the first two rounds of the season.
"You do at times, particularly when there's a forced interchange," Parker said of the increased effects of fatigue.
"Both teams had that tonight and the last five or 10 minutes of each half there is that fatigue factor more so than when there was 10 interchanges.
"They had to make some forced changes, some players had to play some extra minutes that they probably didn't find themselves doing and it was a hot, sticky night so there are times in the game where fatigue is going to be a factor."