The Sydney Roosters might need Sonny Bill Williams sooner than expected.
The Roosters put in a horror performance as the Melbourne Storm ran out 24-6 winners at the SCG but far more concern surrounded a series of troubling injuries.
Despite missing Cameron Smith and Cameron Munster, the Storm barely skipped a beat in a clinical first half performance, leading 14-0 at the break.
But with plenty of players already on the injury list, it was a costly match for the Roosters who added three more injuries with Lachlan Lam suffering an ankle injury. Mitchell Aubusson also hurt his arm and there was huge concern for Luke Keary after an ambulance was called.
The mounting injury list could mean an earlier than expected return for Williams, with the former All Black available to play in the Roosters’ next clash against the Tigers.
However, bringing Williams into the squad so soon would be a huge risk given he and his family only just finished their quarantine period on Thursday evening.
Coach Trent Robinson played down an early appearance from SBW.
“You need about three weeks out of isolation to get going, that would be it [Canberra] – nobody get excited about next week,” Robinson said.
“He has a big aura about him externally, but he knows a lot of the guys and he’s been talking to a lot of them. It will be great to bring him in.”
Initially, it appeared that Keary had succumbed to a rib injury with Fox League reporting he had treatment throughout the halftime break, but a heavy tackle in the second half saw him come from the field and out of the match.
Soon after reports emerged paramedics had been called to the rooms to look at Keary, who was in “a lot of pain”. Commentators speculated it could be an internal injury, as an ambulance was called for the star.
The NRL Physio Brien Seeney also wrote there was “no confirmation of any possible organ involvement for Keary at this stage”.
However, it’s not out for the realms of possibility with the Cowboys’ Justin O’Neill suffering two broken ribs that caused a ruptured spleen in round 11 and saw him miss the remainder of the season in 2019.
There was soon confirmation the ambulance was called due to worry about internal bleeding.
Roosters coach Trent Robinson gave an update in his press conference.
“He’s not great at the moment,” he said. “He’s very sore, it’s pretty painful. Something internal. We thought it was rib but we’ve sort of worked out that it’s something a bit deeper than that so he’s in quite a bit of pain. He’s off now.”
It was a concerning finish to the match and happened to come after two more injuries saw the Roosters crippled.
Aubusson’s was particularly tough to watch.
With five minutes left in the first half, he was caught in a sickening moment when the 301-gamer’s arm was caught under Storm enforcer Nelson Asofa-Solamona.
Having been pushed over by a fend from Asofa-Solamona, the Storm prop then fell on the Roosters veteran with his arm being flattened in an ugly way.
“He is hurt Mitch Aubusson, he was trampled a couple of times there, he’s in real strife,” commentator Andrew Voss said.
The whistle then went off with Aubusson not in a good way. “The toughness of rugby league encapsulated in that one replay,” Voss said of Aubusson, who was clearly in pain.
It comes just a week before Aubusson was meant to equal Anthony Minichiello’s club record of 302 games for the foundation club.
NRL Physio tweeted “Initial sideline report is possible wrist/forearm fracture for Aubusson, if confirmed at least 4-6 weeks recovery usually required for adequate bone healing. Not good news”.
For Lam, Braith Anasta said on Fox League that it was “a real shame for him, he had a big opportunity against one of the high quality sides to stamp his authority and maintain the number 7 jersey alongside Keary”.
The Roosters’ injury list includes Victor Radley, Sam Verrills, Boyd Cordner, Daniel Tupou, Angus Crichton, Brett Morris and Jared Waerea-Hargraves.
It added to a terrible start to the night for the Roosters who had just 14 from 21 completions, against the Storm, who went 17 from 21.
Two tries in the opening 20 minutes put the Roosters to the sword with another one gone begging after the bunker ruled Suliasi Vunivalu put his foot on the sideline.
News emerged after the game that Vunivalu had also suffered a broken jaw in a horror night for injuries.
On The Late Show with Matty Johns, Bryan Fletcher asked if Roosters great Luke Ricketson had ever “seen carnage like this?”
“The injuries are horrific,” he said. “I’m not quite sure what it is. People are talking about the time off that everyone’s had and coming back and not being conditioned for this style of football but the game’s just got a lot faster and there’s more minutes being played and people are just not adapting to it and the injuries are just going everywhere.”