Players win praise in pain game
THERE is not a tougher or more brutal body-contact sport on this planet than rugby league.
Think about some of the extraordinary courage and pain resistance we witnessed over the weekend.
Roosters hooker Jake Friend playing with a cracked sternum and absorbing the pain to make 32 tackles with it. And we've been bagging him for weeks about playing poorly.
Trent Merrin coming back a week after the shocking break of a bone in his finger. And then making 155 metres down the middle.
Broncos' rookie Payne Haas played on with a partially dislocated shoulder.
Cowboys forward Shaun Fensom tried to continue with a dislocated elbow against the Tigers.
Titans forward Keegan Hipgrave suffered a suspected fractured wrist against the Storm. He got it strapped and headed back out there because his side was short.
The week before, Parramatta Eels warhorse Timmy Mannah played the last 10 minutes against the Sharks with a fractured eye socket.
And did you see Storm's Dale Finucane with all the head strapping. Most of us would be off to hospital. He kept carting it up and got his seven stitches in the dressing sheds afterwards.
The collisions in the modern-day game are just incredible. Players have never been bigger, stronger or fitter.
There is no longer just a 10-minute softening-up period like we used to see before fatigue settled in.
Under the eight-man interchange, players aren't getting tired. It's crash, bash and smash for 80 minutes at furious speed.
One medical expert even told me recently there won't be a game in 30 years unless something is done about the unbelievable impact and collisions.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson summed it up well after Saturday's victory over the Warriors.
"If you walk in and see players preparing for a match, that's the beauty of our sport," Robinson said.
"They go and get what they need to do to get out onto the field.
"People watch our game for character. As far as team sports go, we're at the extreme end on pushing them mentally and physically, under fatigue, with brutality."
The thing is we rarely hear about the true courage of the players and the full extent of their injuries.
It's not something they advertise for obvious reasons.
If you've got a bad shoulder you don't want the opposition targeting it.
So you tell the media you've got an ankle injury. It happens all the time.
Former Bulldogs forward Graeme Hughes tells a good story about playing with a serious hand injury back in the 80s.
Word got back to their opponents in the build-up to the game.
So in the dressing sheds before they ran out, Hughes got his left hand heavily strapped but a painkilling injection in the right. The opposition targeted him on his good side, where the strapping was.
So next time you want to criticise a player on social media, think about it.
Next time you want to accuse NRL players of being overpaid, again, think about it.
These men are incredibly tough warriors. They earn every penny they get.