Coronavirus crisis claims its first NRL victim
The coronavirus crisis has claimed its first NRL victim - Canterbury forward Joe Stimson, who was forced to wait so long for elective surgery it's all but ended his season.
The former Melbourne Storm forward suffered a tear to his shoulder joint against the North Queensland Cowboys in round two back on March 19, right before the pandemic forced the suspension of the season.
Regularly, Stimson would have had surgery immediately to repair his shoulder but was forced to wait six weeks to go under the knife for a shoulder reconstruction.
Bulldogs coach Dean Pay told The Daily Telegraph that the new recruit had to wait until April 28 to undergo the procedure after COVID-19 forced restrictions on elective surgeries across the country.
"Joe did his shoulder in the last game before the shutdown. His surgery couldn't be done because of the virus, so that is a pretty big setback for us. But there is nothing we can do about it and we just have to try and get past that one," Pay said.
On Tuesday, Stimson had an anterior shoulder reconstruction and he is scheduled to go under the knife again in two weeks to complete the second stage of the surgery.
Stimson could be sidelined for up five to six months meaning the delay has all but cost him a chance of playing again in season 2020. The competition is to restart on May 28, when a further 18 rounds will be played followed by a four-week finals series which will culminate with the grand final on October 25. The best case scenario for Stimson is a five-month recovery and return to the field around finals time if the Bulldogs manage to earn a top eight berth.
The untimely injury compounds coach Pay's selection headaches with the club already missing forward Corey Harawira-Naera, who along with winger Jayden Okunbor had their contracts deregistered earlier this year following a pre-season sex scandal.
Stimon's injury could see Dean Britt or Raymond Faitala-Mariner come into the starting side, opening a bench spot for the likes of Sione Katoa or Ofahiki Ogden.
While the coronavirus pandemic has delivered a hammer blow to Stimson's season, it has emerged as a blessing in disguise for teammate Kieran Foran.
Foran suffered a shoulder injury playing for New Zealand against Great Britain and had surgery in November last year.
The Kiwi international was eyeing a return in June, which would have seen him miss at least 12 rounds of season 2020.
But with the competition postponed since March 23 it gives Foran the best chance of returning to the field in June having only missed a handful of matches.
The playmaker remains on track to start non-contact skills work when teams return to full group training from next week.
Forward Chris Smith won't be in full training for another six weeks after he suffered an MCL injury during the All Stars match.
Originally published as Coronavirus crisis claims its first NRL victim