Penrith are in the worst stage of their season long injury crisis this weekend when they travel to Melbourne to face the Storm without any of their top 3 fullbacks. While there are plenty of reasons that injuries occur, the consistency of them at the foot of the mountains is worrying and the strength and conditioning of the players needs to be addressed.
The Penrith injury list is a long and sad affair.
David Simmons - Still struggling with hamstring issues but it was reported he got a late flight to Melbourne and will take his place on the wing on Friday night.
Matt Moylan - Broke his finger earlier in the season but is not spending an extended period out with torn ankle ligaments. Should be back in the squad a few weeks before the end of the season.
James Segeyaro - Medial Ligament tear. He's flown down to Melbourne and is a possible inclusion for the clash against the Storm.
Jamal Idris - Tore his ACL after he'd just returned from previous injury. Mental demons compounding things. Should be back before the finals.
Adam Docker - Knee issues. Highly unlikely we'll see him play first grade again this season even if he can return from injury.
Brent Kite - Age and a busted shoulder don't mix. Forced retirement for the reliable warhorse.
George Jennings - Fractured fibula. Is a chance at a return in Round 22
And that's just the first-graders!
An injury toll like that, with the addition of early season injuries to Jamie Soward, Peter Wallace, Josh Mansour, Nigel Plum, and Dean Whare is a sign of some systemic issues in the teams preparation.
Revered trainer Ronnie Palmer has been at the head of the Panthers strength and conditioning team over the last few seasons and it seems that his 100% intensity all the time training mantra isn't working out at the foot of the mountains.
Obviously the blame is certainly not all his, it's an issue the whole club needs to look at. Off-field could be scaled back, or distributed better among the players, and in the early rounds it was very apparent that the squad needed more time working on set plays and structure in attack rather than a focus on fitness.
Palmer is set to follow Barrett and former associate John Cartwright to Manly in 2016, indicating a change in philosophy in training at Penrith - hopefully it's enough to stymie the never-ending flow of injuries.
Have Your Say: Could Penrith have won the premiership this year or last without the crippling injury toll that has held them back?