MARK ‘SPUDD’ CARROLL: Nathan Cleary, Tom Trbojevic and Roger Tuivasa-Sheck latest victims of NRL injury crisis

Mark Carroll
The Nightly
4 Min Read
Stars like Nathan Cleary are getting injured due to poor workout routines and who should step-in for Cleary for NSW.
Stars like Nathan Cleary are getting injured due to poor workout routines and who should step-in for Cleary for NSW. Credit: Getty

In almost 40 years of playing and covering the NRL, I have never seen so many hamstring injuries as I’m seeing right now.

It’s a minor miracle if we get through a set of six without someone hobbling from the field.

Injuries are part of the game, sure, but this is damaging the product and the NRL needs to get proactive before things become even worse.

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Have a look at some of the stars who are sitting on the sidelines with a bung hammy:

  • Nathan Cleary
  • Tom Trbojevic
  • Roger Tuivasa-Sheck
  • Kieran Foran
  • Alex Johnston
  • Xavier Coates
  • Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow

These are all guys who bring fans through the turnstiles – and there’s plenty more I could name.

So far, we’ve had 20 players sidelined by hamstring injuries after 10 rounds. The popular “NRL Physio” posted on his X account that the average number of busted hammys per season between 2018 and 2023 was 23.

We’re going to absolutely smash that figure at this rate.

Bringing those stats into focus is the loss over the weekend of Cleary (eight weeks) and Trbojevic (seven weeks). Two guns who now won’t be playing State of Origin.

What is happening to our supreme athletes this season?

The frustrating thing is they’re not even going flat out when the injury happens. Half the time they’re just bloody jogging.

In my opinion, it comes down to what is happening at the club gymnasium.

The first thing they put in a gym these days isn’t barbell curls. It’s squat racks. For players to do deadlifts and heavy squats.

Deadlifts target your lower back, bum, hamstring, and quads. They weren’t a thing back when I played in the 1990s but it’s all the rage these days and I dare say it’s the same in other codes like AFL and rugby union.

Let me tell you – and I own a gym – when I do a deadlift my hamstrings feel like they’re about to snap. There’s too much deadlifting going on. I’m always hearing of players boasting about doing deadlifts of 180 -200 kilos. Why do you have to lift that much weight? No one in the game weighs anywhere near that much.

Tom Trbojevic of the Sea Eagles is seen leaving the field injured during the NRL Round 10 match between the Redcliffe Dolphins and the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Thursday, May 9, 2024. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt) NO ARCHIVING, EDITORIAL USE ONLY
Tom Trbojevic has been left devastated yet again by injury. Credit: DAVE HUNT/AAPIMAGE

Yet they pick up these weights 10 times in a row. They have competitions to see who can lift the most.

Now I admit I don’t know the gym program of Nathan Cleary, Tom Trbojevic or RTS. But I do think it’s got to a point where the NRL and/or the Rugby League Players Association needs to making an appointment with each club to try and get to the bottom of this problem.

We don’t want to be losing our star players to such avoidable injuries, especially at this time of year with State of Origin about to kick off.

I think we need to go old school to help keep our elite players out on the field. When I played It was just bench press, shoulder press and biceps.

Our late, great Manly coach Bob “Bozo” Fulton wouldn’t even have known what a deadlift was. But we were fit and strong and had plenty of pace. We played three straight grand finals in the 1990s, so something was working.

Here’s some further proof to back up my argument. My wife Monique has been involved in cheerleading for 30 years.

Over the last two years, she’s been losing two or three girls a week with hamstring strains – they’re dropping like flies.

Back when Monique started her business, all the girls wanted to have thin figures like supermodel Kate Moss. Now they prefer the strong backsides and big quads. To get that look, a lot of them are doing deadlifts and squats at the gym.

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - APRIL 25: Kieran Foran of the Titans reacts during the round eight NRL match between New Zealand Warriors and Gold Coast Titans at Go Media Stadium Mt Smart, on April 25, 2024, in Auckland, New Zealand. (Photo by Phil Walter/Getty Images)
Kieran Foran also injured his hamstring at the weekend. Credit: Phil Walter/Getty Images

But when it came time to practice the high kicks for game day… “ping” went the hammy.

One girl who’s never had a hamstring problem has only ever done pilates.

My daughter Indiana is a cheerleader and she told me she hasn’t had a hamstring injury this year because she’s stopped doing those squats and deadlifts.

I think I’m onto something. Just call me Doctor Carroll.


With Cleary injured, Blues selectors have a major decision to make over the next couple of weeks.

He’s always one of the first players chosen for NSW and new coach Michael Maguire must have fallen off his chair when news came through that Cleary’s out of the series.

Nicho Hynes and Mitchell Moses are the obvious contenders to wear the Blues number 7.

Moses is the incumbent after filling in for the injured Cleary last year. The only problem is, he hasn’t played for almost two months due to a broken foot.

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA - MAY 03: Luke Keary of the Roosters passes the ball during the round nine NRL match between the Brisbane Broncos and Sydney Roosters at Suncorp Stadium, on May 03, 2024, in Brisbane, Australia. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)
Luke Keary could step-up to replace Nathan Cleary for NSW. Credit: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

Hynes missed Cronulla’s win over Melbourne with a calf problem, so there’s got to be some doubt over him too. I would bypass those two completely.

My choice to play halfback for the Blues is the Roosters’ Luke Keary.

I know he’s retiring at the end of this season but he’s not playing like an old man.

Keary has been a huge part of a Roosters side that has racked up an incredible 138 points in their past three games. His connection with James Tedesco who’ll be the Blues fullback and skipper — is also a huge plus.


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