The Sydney Roosters have posted an official complaint to the National Rugby League about the condition of the Bankwest Stadium pitch after losing two players to season-ending knee ligament injuries inside 15 minutes.
Defending champion the Roosters have made a flying restart to the season since the sport restarted last month, but their hopes of becoming the first team to clinch three straight NRL titles since the early 1980s suffered a major blow on Friday when two key players were forced off with nasty injuries in the game against the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Lock Victor Radley was forced off the field in the opening exchanges and looked to have injured his knee just as he prepared to make contact in defence, with the 22-year-old limping off the field under the support of the Roosters physios.
Just 14 minutes later, the game was halted again when hooker Sam Verrills collapsed in remarkably similar circumstances, with the 21-year-old grimacing in pain after planting his right leg before contact.
Verills looked in much more pain and had to be carried from the field, and the Roosters’ medical team quickly confirmed that while scans would be needed, both were suspected anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries.
“When you see a player go down like that without a hand laid on them your heart is in your mouth for the nature of the injury,” Fox League commentator Warren Smith said upon watching the replay of Radley’s injury.
Minutes later, Smith issued an update from the Roosters locker room. “There’s grave fears that Victor Radley has torn his ACL,” he said.
“They’ll confirm as much with the scans but they are pretty confident with the initial diagnosis.”
The double-blow could have huge ramifications on the NRL season, with Radley and Verrills among the Roosters’ best-performing players this season so far.
The injuries also saw the tie turned on its head, with the Rooster quickly losing a 10-0 lead to head in at the half-time break level.
The Roosters sat fifth in the NRL before kick-off, just three points behind league-leaders the Penrith Panthers. However, by half-time the club had lodged an official complaint with the condition of the Bankwest Stadium pitch in Sydney, which is one of six stadia being used as part of the NRL restart plans.
Bankwest Stadium has been the most-used pitch since the sport restarted, with Parramatta, Canterbury, South Sydney, Cronulla and the Roosters all playing their home games at the Western Sydney ground.
The complaint could cause a major headache for the NRL as Bankwest Stadium is due to host Saturday’s encounter between the Parramatta Eels and the Canberra Raiders, as well as Sunday’s match between the Canterbury Bulldogs and West Tigers.
However, Fox League pundit and former England international Sam Burgess could not pinpoint whether the turf was to blame or not.
“It’s really hard to comment on that,: Burgess said. “Looking at the surface from eyeshot, it looks dry and the visuals don’t look great. On the other side, the Bankwest is a brand new stadium, the ground looks to be holding up well but it just looks a bit dry and dead. When Sam’s hit the turf hard there, it didn’t seem to move much in the ground.
“We played at the Suncorp Stadium in the Magic Round and we played eight games over three days and I know by the end of this weekend it’s 11 games in 22 days at Bankwest but it’s just such terrible news for the Roosters and for Sam and Victor themselves. It’s hard to say it’s the ground, there’s plenty of theories coming up that the players are underdone or they’re not underdone, it’s almost just so unfortunate - two so unfortunate injuries that aren’t in contact and just someone moving away with their body and it’s just not a great look. I just feel so sorry for the players and the Roosters.”