IN an age where sport is so results-driven, Hull KR’s decision to leave their best player, Terry Campese, at home today certainly marks a refreshing change.
Just to recap, Rovers are playing against Catalans in France this evening but have freely chosen to omit their captain from their travelling 19-man squad despite him being fit.
Campese has not done anything wrong; this is no disciplinary measure or a selection issue based on form, but rather a decision forged from that topical matter – player welfare.
Rovers, essentially, feel they could cause harm on their Australian stand-0ff by naming him in Perpignan given his recent fitness issues and, so, have opted to give him the weekend off despite the fact he successfully negotiated 80 minutes at Newcastle on Sunday following a seven-week hamstring lay-off.
Player welfare is a burning issue in rugby league; do the sport’s stars play too many games, is too much asked of them over the hectic Easter period, are they given long enough to recuperate between fixtures?
Most players will, on more than one occasion during a campaign, take a pain-killing injection to mask an injury and get them through a game. To a degree, it is expected of them.
Players play ‘busted’ week in, week out, putting their hand up to help their colleagues and earn their wage, showing the sort of bravery that is not always associated with other sports.
But coaches and managers know their players are willing to carry on when perhaps they should not and often overlook this. You can not blame them for that as you want your best players on the park and, if they say they are fit, often there is no way of proving otherwise.
Hull KR’s head of rugby Jamie Peacock, the former England captain who battled at the top of the sport for 17 years and who knows a thing or two about what professional players put themselves through, who explained Campese would not feature versus Catalans.
That game in Newcastle, against Hull FC, had been the former Canberra Raiders star’s first full 80 minutes in 12 months; a knee reconstruction was followed by a hamstring tear on his first game back and then, on his return from that, an immediate relapse with the same hamstring.
Campese is undoubtedly fragile at present and playing three times in 12 days – they visit Wakefield on Thursday – while including a flight to France is the sort of punishing schedule that would undoubtedly put his body under further strain.
It would be heartbreaking to see him sidelined yet again so well played to Rovers for taking that “risk” out of his hands.
Let us not forget, James Webster’s side desperately need points to try and force their way into the top eight or they will be destined for another seven weeks in the dreaded Qualifiers.
Campese has understandably been itching to try and make up for lost time and bring his stellar attributes to Rovers’ cause. But they do need him fit for the rest of the season, not just a game in France, and long-term thinking over short-termism has prevailed.
Maybe Peacock’s own experiences influenced the decision or it was down to the club’s medical team but, either way, common sense has won and it must be hoped other clubs will perhaps now show similar diligence in such matters, too.