South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett has called for a study into why shoulder injuries have become so common in the NRL after Sam Burgess and Matt Gillett were this week forced into retirement.
Bennett, who appointed Burgess captain of Souths and England, spoke for the first time about the injury which led to the retirement of 31-year-old superstar at a media conference in Auckland ahead of Saturday’s international triple-header at Eden Park.
"I’m happy for him. He doesn’t have to go through all the pain anymore," Bennett said of Burgess, who had been set to captain the Great Britain team playing New Zealand until ruled out by the injury.
The seven-time premiership-winning mentor also has a close association with Gillett after coaching him for four seasons in Brisbane.
"They have got similar type injuries," Bennett said. "I think, without making the headline, that it’s the most common injury at the moment that we have.
"It’s something to look at — why so many of these type of injuries are happening and why it’s finishing guy’s careers a lot earlier than we all thought they would."
Bennett not sad for Sam, but concerned about shoulder injuries
The issue was a topic of conversation among the coaches and captains of the six teams - Australia, Tonga, Great Britain, New Zealand, Fiji and Samoa – as they waited for the conference at the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron headquarters.
Among them were Kiwis skipper Benji Marshall and coach Michael Maguire, Kangaroos coach Mal Menings and captain Boyd Cordner, their Tonga counterparts Kristian Woolf and Siosiua Taukeaiho, Samoa coach Matt Parish and Fiji mentor Brandon Costin.
"I was just talking to Benji before," Bennett said. "A lot of players have multiple operations on their shoulder and Benji reminded me that he has had five. He is still going."
Meninga suggested any review of the cause of shoulder injuries should consider whether tackling techniques could be improved.
"Kristian and I were just talking about it before and the players that play our game at the moment are bigger, faster, stronger so the collisions are bigger as well," Meninga said.
"You’re not going to change that but maybe it’s a technique thing, I’m not quite sure. That’s the very nature of our game. Injuries are part of our game unfortunately. It’s sad and tragic it’s ended Sam’s and Matt’s careers early.
"I guess the game will look at that but injuries are a part of our game."
Cordner said players were aware of the risk of injuries.
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"It is disappointing to see players like Sam and Matt having their careers ended short," Cordner said.
"You would think they would have liked to go out on their own terms but that’s the nature of this sport.
"We sign up for that and we know it’s part of the sport but it’s just unfortunate that it has happened to two great players at the same time."