This is going to be a unique take, but one I will happily expand on - Josh Mansour re-signing with the Penrith Panthers last night was the best thing to happen to the NRL players this season. It's amazing for Mansour because now he can recover with the state of mind and peace that his future isn't in jeopardy but it's also amazing for the NRL players as a whole.
2018 has not been an easy season for the players and their bodies, and we're only at the beginning of the 11th week in. State of Origin hasn't even happened yet and already the injury toll keeps sky rocketing. Just the ACL count alone is at a whooping 9 before round 11. On May 6th, during round 9, the well known and respected @nrlphysio on Twitter posted this table depicting the number of long term (7+ weeks) injuries that had already been suffered for the season. (Side note: if you have Twitter and aren't following him, do so right now. Offers amazing insight on pretty much every injury sustained during the season and explains things so well)
Since then, only more injuries have occurred and they don't look to be stopping anytime soon. When players get injured, fans start talking. It's the inevitable truth. Suddenly, a player's worth comes into question. I'm not fighting that it isn't fair, however I do believe there's a grain of salt that needs to be sprinkled onto these opinions.
Josh Dugan suffers a lot of injuries. A lot of new injuries too. He isn't a player that has suffered one severe injury and spends the rest of his career trying to handle it. It's something new just about every time and with each new injury his worth in the eyes of his fans diminishes. When Dugan signed with the Cronulla Sharks last season many of his fans at the Dragons were sad to see him go but these fans were consoled with the argument that Dugan got injured too much anyway. When he signed his contract with the Cronulla Sharks many fans argued that it was too much for a player who spends the majority of their season on the sideline. With each injury, his worth declines. Dugan is not the only example of this, he was merely the easiest to point out on the top of my head. Many players have fans who feel this way about them. Tigers fans celebrated Tedesco's departure because he got injured too much, Parramatta fans groaned about Hayne's signing because he gets injured too much etc etc. Another player who has dealt with this in recent times was then off-contract, Josh Mansour.
When Josh Mansour went down injured in Round 6 against the Gold Coast Titans many fans instantly questioned his impending contract. When the severity of the injury came out the questions only increased and thus, so did the rumours. Before the injury there were slight whispers of the possibility that Mansour would sign with the Parramatta Eels but these whispers became yells once he was off the field. Fans were adamant that he was going to sign with someone else and Penrith Panther's fans, perhaps as a coping mechanism, began tossing up the idea that it wouldn't be an issue if he did leave because he gets injured too much. The injury left everyone in an uncomfortable position. Do you sign a player from another team based on what you know they have done in previous seasons and ignore the current injury? Do you re-sign a player and back them to recover fully? Thankfully, it was the latter that won.
Mansour is not just a winger who can jump high or hit hard. He is an incredible asset to the club on and off the field and has cemented his place in the hearts of the fans. Earlier in the year, prior to the injury, Mansour was making headlines for his charitable work with Bowel Cancer Australia - even shaving that famous beard to raise money for the cause. He gives the Penrith Panthers positive attention which clubs in the NRL often need. It's no secret that NRL players and clubs are often found in hot water so it's vital to hold on to those players who do bring a good name to the game. Mansour isn't just a great guy though, he is an incredibly talented player. Representative jerseys aren't just given to anyone, you have to earn them which is exactly what Mansour has done in his career. Last night, the Penrith Panthers proved how much they want Mansour. They re-signed him for an additional three years despite the current and past injuries he has suffered proving to players and fans amongst the NRL that injuries don't define worth.
We will never watch a rugby league season without injuries. It is apart of the game. It is also apart of why we proudly exclaim that it is the toughest game in the world. If you want to brag about how tough the game is, you're going to have to stick by the players playing it. Right? Injuries are apart of the game unfortunately however, they aren't everything. Of course they are hard to ignore when considering whether you want your team to sign a player or not but remember that with every second a player spends on the sideline they are working harder to get back on the field and prove their worth.