Injuries leave Manly with $2m hole in their team
Manly will be forced to start the 2020 NRL season with more than $2 million of forward talent on the sidelines after another key front-rower underwent surgery on Monday.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal that boom young forward Taniela Paseka suffered a syndesmosis injury during the NRL Nines, which will sideline him for eight weeks.
Paseka, 22, was set to earn a starting spot in Manly's pack following injuries to Jake Trbojevic and Addin Fonua-Blake.
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But the high ankle sprain, suffered during Manly's quarter-final loss to the Gold Coast in the NRL Nines in Perth last weekend, means the 197cm, 120kg giant will miss the first four rounds of the season.
It adds to a horror toll for the Sea Eagles
There are suggestions Trbojevic will not be available until round three, while Fonua-Blake could be a week later after they both underwent off-season shoulder reconstructions.
In that time, Manly face tough opening matches against Melbourne (Brookvale), Sydney Roosters (Gosford), New Zealand Warriors (Brookvale) and Canberra (GIO Stadium). Trbojevic, Paseka and Fonua-Blake take up around $2m of Manly's salary cap. The injury to Paseka has increased clubs' concerns about playing the Nines event.
Paseka, 22, had a full operation on Sydney's northern beaches on Monday morning and confronts a frustrating two-month recovery.
The Sea Eagles have publicly supported the Nines concept, but there are now private rumblings about the tournament's worth given Paseka will be a significant loss to start the season.
In a gesture to appease his players, Manly coach Des Hasler agreed to delay surgery on his star forwards to allow Trbojevic (Australia) and Fonua-Blake (Tonga) to play in last year's end-of-season Oceania Cup.
Pushing surgery back five weeks for both players has impeded their starts to the 2020 season, while Paseka's injury compounds the situation.
Hasler didn't want to prevent both players representing their countries.
Manly have a host of rising young stars Hasler will consider as replacements, including Haumole Olakau'atu and Sean Keppie.
Paseka's syndesmosis continues a horror injury list to emerge from the Nines with St George Illawarra - Matt Dufty (fractured cheekbone), Cameron McInnes (medial) and Korbin Sims (broken arm) - hit hardest.
"There are a couple of costly injuries there but that's the way rugby league goes I guess," Saints halfback Ben Hunt said.
All three players are in doubt for St George Illawarra's round-one match against Wests Tigers in Wollongong.
North Queensland forward Josh McGuire injured his MCL against Gold Coast in the tournament's semi-finals.
Trbojevic has worked incredibly hard on his injury through summer and is desperately hoping to return early for round one.
Clubs and coaches are nervous about possible injuries during trial matches which start this weekend. Some of the NRL's elite will participate in the Indigenous All Stars - Maori All Stars game on the Gold Coast this Saturday night.
The injury clouds over Jake Trbojevic and Addin-Fonua Blake are huge blows for SuperCoaches planning on starting with either, likely sending them back to the drawing boards. But it does open up the door for some potential new cheapies, with Tony Williams, Sean Keppie and Haumole Olakauatu all in contention to start or earn a bench spot. With few locked and loaded forward cheapie options, SuperCoaches will want to pay attention to these guys in the trials.
PREDICTED ROUND ONE STARTING 17*
14.Cade Cust/Lachlan Croker
*Assuming Jake Trbojevic, Addin Fonua-Blake and Taniela Paseka aren't right for round one.