The NRL is concerned about the Optus Stadium surface.
The NRL is concerned about the Optus Stadium surface.

$30m worth of Origin talent in grave danger

THE NRL has spoken to Optus Stadium staff over concerns about the number of AFL players getting injured at the ground could mean State of Origin players are at risk for Sunday's interstate clash. 

Local AFL clubs the West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Dockers have taken their long-held concerns about the conditions of the turf to the players association who are addressing the issue with AFL bosses.

Fremantle have temporarily suspended training sessions at the venue.

The NRL's Head of Football Graham Annesley called for an urgent response from Optus Stadium ground staff amid fears the 34 Origin players are being put at risk.

"We've been in contact with the stadium management and asked for a copy of their turf management plan for Origin," Annesley said.

"We will assess it and then make a decision about what needs to happen. We've asked for hardness measures, grass lengths, everything.

"It's obviously a concern and we might have to send our own experts over later this week."

West Coast Eagles’ Jack Darling hurts his ankle at Optus Stadium. Image: Will Russell/AFL Media/Getty Images)
West Coast Eagles’ Jack Darling hurts his ankle at Optus Stadium. Image: Will Russell/AFL Media/Getty Images)

The NRL has already been rocked by its worst run of injuries in years.

Sam Burgess, Dave Klemmer, Luke Keary, Jack Bird, Josh Hodgson, Gareth Widdop, Adam Reynolds, Dylan Brown, Tom Trbojevic, Joey Leilua, Shaun Johnson, Matt Moylan, Jordan McLean, Ryan James, Jake Friend and Waqa Blake. And that's just the biggest names.

Nervous NRL clubs are anxiously waiting for the feedback from Annesley before the players leave on Monday for Perth.

Broncos coach Anthony Seibold has five players involved in the game.

"They've got to make sure the surface is safe - it's as simple as that," Seibold said.

"We're sending our elite players over for a showpiece game so it's got to be right."

No one wants to see an Origin player get struck down. Image: Jono Searle/Getty Images
No one wants to see an Origin player get struck down. Image: Jono Searle/Getty Images

Another coach, who asked not to be named, said: "It's a worry the body contact and knocks in rugby league is far greater than AFL."

Nine players couldn't back up for their club teams last weekend after Origin I.

Other carried injuries into games.

The turf hardness became an issue last year when Swans superstar Buddy Franklin was sidelined for several weeks with a heel injury year which coach John Longmire blamed on the surface.

"We had the most amount of players we've had cramp in that game," Longmire said. "The feedback that we got was that it was pretty firm and our boys were pretty sore afterwards."

It will still be a great spectacle for supporters. Image: Daniel Carson/AFL Media/Getty Images
It will still be a great spectacle for supporters. Image: Daniel Carson/AFL Media/Getty Images

The Dockers and Eagles have lost up to half a dozen players this year to lower leg injuries from playing on the stadium grass.

Optus Stadium CEO Mike McKenna said he was confident the NRL would find the surface in good condition for June 23, a 6pm local kick-off.

"I am absolutely confident that our field will meet or exceed expectations and that the NRL will find Optus Stadium a wonderful venue for their showpiece event," Mr McKenna said.

"The appointment of independent turf consultants is a common risk management practice and we have had the opportunity to work with several experts in recent times who have all been complimentary about the surface.

"Stadium management will work with the NRL to provide updates on the condition of the turf in the lead-in to State of Origin."

News Corp Australia


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