These are the numbers that show why Canterbury coach Des Hasler should be a leading contender for Dally M coach of the year.
Long-term injuries, multiple suspensions and the gruelling State of Origin period delivered the two-time premiership-winning mentor one of the most difficult paths to this year’s finals.
A total 68 games combined have been missed by Hasler’s starting 13 – at least double that of every other team in the top eight except South Sydney.
A season-ending pectoral injury to strike weapon Tony Williams takes up 11 of the missed games, however Hasler has also had to make do without James Graham, Brett Morris and Josh Reynolds for eight games each.
Their four-man Origin contingent of Trent Hodkinson, Josh Jackson, and the Morris twins also missed a pair of matches due to the representative season.
Despite the arduous run, the seventh-placed Bulldogs can clinch what would be a remarkable finals berth with a win over Newcastle on Saturday and few would rule out their chances of a second consecutive grand final appearance.
Star fullback Brett Morris believes there could be a big upside for the Bulldogs from those earlier woes.
“I suppose we have had a fair few injuries and suspensions, but it gave a lot of young guys opportunities to play some football and that helps the team,” said Morris.
“We might’ve had some losses but it gave them a chance to play NRL.
“Coming into the finals you might have an injury and you need those guys to step up.”
A staggering 783 games in total have been missed this season by the strongest 13-man line-ups from all NRL clubs – an average of roughly four games for each player.
Penrith were the only team to crack the 100-game mark, mainly due to long-term injuries to key men Matt Moylan, Jamal Idris, Brent Kite, Peter Wallace and Jamie Soward.
Manly were the second hardest hit with 78, losing glue guys Jamie Buhrer and Brenton Lawrence early in the season.
Defending premiers South Sydney (49) were the only other side in the top eight to have lost over 40 games in their run-on side this year, however half of them come from the domestic violence ban on centre Kirisome Auva’a.
North Queensland (24) and Canberra (33) were the teams least affected by injuries and suspensions but the Cowboys’ luck appears to have run out following the weekend injuries to key players James Tamou and Michael Morgan.
MOST GAMES MISSED DUE TO INJURIES AND SUSPENSION
Penrith – 105
Manly – 78
Newcastle – 72
Canterbury – 68
Warriors – 65
LEAST GAMES MISSED DUE TO INJURIES AND SUSPENSION
North Queensland – 27
Canberra – 31
Melbourne – 33
St George-Illawarra – 34
Sydney Roosters – 37
(figures for club’s best 13 line-ups)