McNamara demands rethink on player welfare

Super League faces a crippling injury crisis unless action is taken to protect players, according to Catalans Dragons coach Steve McNamara.

The former England coach believes the game could grind to a halt as rule changes and fixture congestion take their toll and he is calling for an increase in the number of substitutes or interchanges allowed during a game to take pressure off the players.

McNamara has spent the past fortnight in isolation due to a Covid-19 outbreak at the French club and he told League Express. “I’ve been able to sit and watch the game from afar for the past couple of weeks and I feel really strongly right now that we need to give something back to the players.

“With the number of players that are going down injured we are in danger of really damaging our product moving forward, particularly into next year and a World Cup.

“The type of injuries we are seeing are serious, five-months-off type of injuries. Some people say they are collision injuries, which are unpreventable, but you absolutely can prevent them. It’s the fatigue in the game that is causing players to lose coordination and put their bodies in the wrong place.

“We are asking so much of the players now and we really need to give them something back. It could be more players on the bench or simply more interchanges allowed, but something has to be done now.”

McNamara said the mid-season introduction of the six-again and no-scrum rules had increased the intensity of games at the same time as irregular fixture planning had disrupted regular training patterns, all of which was increasing the burden on players.

“We’ve got club Chairmen who are paying hundreds of thousands of pounds for players who are all sat on the sidelines for the rest of this season and going into next year, so something needs to be done.

“Nobody wants constant tinkering, but we’ve already changed the rules mid-season so any questions about maintaining the integrity of the competition can go right out of the window.

“We are asking too much of the players and while everyone acknowledges the exceptional circumstances we are in, we need to take action.

“This problem will intensify as the season progresses and if we don’t take action we will have a huge problem going into a World Cup year.

“Already, Huddersfield had 16 players fit and available last week. How can that be? We have to take a serious look at it, understand it, and change it to protect the most important commodity in the game, which is our players.

“It doesn’t need to be a permanent change, but I think we should follow the example of the English Football League and make adjustments to protect players in these exceptional times.”

McNamara’s players are awaiting results from the latest round of Covid tests and are preparing to regroup for training on Wednesday in preparation to host Wigan Warriors at Stade Gilbert Brutus on Saturday.

Wigan were granted exemption from travel restrictions by French government officials last week and the Dragons are hoping to attract a crowd of up to 5,000, which is the current limit set under virus-control guidelines.

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