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The return of the fallen superstars

The 2011 season is remembered by most for Manly's impressive premiership win, QLD's 6th straight origin series victory, Darren Lockyer's retirement, the Titans dreadful wooden spoon performance and even the Adam Blair v Glenn Stewart brawl at Brooky.
The return of the fallen superstars
by NRL

The 2011 season is remembered by most for Manly's impressive premiership win, QLD's 6th straight origin series victory, Darren Lockyer's retirement, the Titans dreadful wooden spoon performance and even the Adam Blair v Glenn Stewart brawl at Brooky.

What most fans (and bookies!) seem to have forgotten in relation to the 2011 season is the number of star players that suffered serious injury. Although injuries happen every year, in 2011 we saw injuries play a very significant role in the outcome of the competition.

This is the kind of oversight that could be very profitable for the more attentive punters. The bookies are only looking at what they saw happen in 2011 and have failed to consider 'that which is not seen'. Here is a list of key injuries that I think defined the 2011 season (in chronological order):

* Sam Burgess was injured in a Four Nations match at the end of 2010 and he never recovered enough to make an impact on the 2011 season. When you throw in serious injuries to Roy Asotasi, Luke Stuart and Ben Lowe, it is not hard to see why Souths didn't get going until much later in 2011 (in the end, their late season charge was just not enough to make the finals).

* Terry Campese injured his knee (requiring reconstruction) against Wests in the 2010 finals series. He returned mid-season, but lasted less than 20 minutes. The Raiders play-maker and on field leader was a massive blow (comparable to the Cowboys losing Thurston, or the Storm losing Cronk). When you throw in a series of re-occurring injuries to David Shillington, Tom-Learoyd Lars and Josh Dugan, I was not surprised to see the Raiders finish so far down the ladder.

* Jonathon Thurston was leading the NRL point scoring and Dally M count by a significant margin when he suffered a serious knee injury in Game 3 of the origin series. The best player in the competition was ruled out for a long spell and despite returning before the finals, it was clear that he had not fully healed and lacked his typical intensity and confidence. As a result, the Cowboys went out of the 2011 finals campaign with barely a whimper, getting humiliated in a second half onslaught by Manly.

* Cooper Cronk suffered an injury against the Titans in the Storm's Round 23 defeat of the hapless Titans. Although Cronk returned for the finals campaign, it was clear that his injury (along with Gareth Widdup's and Justin Oneil's injuries) disrupted the Storm's charge to the Grand Final. The usually clinical performance of the Storm was lacking against the Warriors in their semi final. In front of a shell-shocked home crowd, the Storm surprisingly bowed out of the competition and I think the injury to Cronk was a major factor in their unexpected exit from the competition.

* Josh Hoffman came of age with a three try, man-of-the-match performance against the Cowboys in Round 23. The slick fullback was hitting top form towards the back end of last year. Representative duties were a certainty for the 2010 Broncos player of the year. But Coach Griffin made the idiotic decision not to rest Hoffman in the dead-rubber game against Manly in Round 26. Hoffman suffered a serious knee injury and was ruled out for the season. Darren Lockyer was later also ruled out with a fractured eye socket and these two injuries alone cruelled any chance the Broncos had in 2011.

I know there were other key injuries, but in my view, these were the ones that changed the direction of the 2011 NRL competition.

Looking at these injuries is not about making excuses or taking anything away from the performance of the Warriors and Manly, who deserved to be grand finalists. The value in such analysis comes from a realisation that in 2012, things will be different - potentially much different!!

Some of the above teams (Raiders, Cowboys and Broncos) are all a chance of surprising on the upside as their star players are back and fully fit.

Written by PuntPal (www.puntpal.com.au)


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