‘Steve Mortimer would be flatout getting a game in the modern era’
MATTY Johns believes the NRL should cut the interchange numbers from eight to four, to bring fatigue back into the game and lessen the impact injuries that are plaguing the game.
The NRL is considering dropping the interchange from eight to six, but Johns, who played more than 100 games with Newcastle and Cronulla during a decorated playing career, thinks they should go even further.
"Next year it is six but we've got to drop," Johns said.
"The game improved significantly when it went from 10 to eight.
"It will improve the same amount again when it goes to six, and I think the end game is eventually it will get to the point where it is four interchanges and once you leave the field you don't get back on.
"That's the way to alleviate the wrestle out of the game and the way to get rid of these stupid block plays and trying to manufacture attacking sequences."
Coaches have been opposed to changes to the interchange because of the physical demands it would place on players' fitness levels.
If the interchange eventually drops to four, some players would need to go from playing 35 minutes a game to playing 60 to 70 minutes a game, but those fears were shut down by Fox Sports rugby league commentator Paul Kent.
"The problem with that theory though is Sam Kasiano," Kent said.
"Kasiano had one summer in Melbourne where Craig Bellamy said, 'You're too heavy you need to get some weight off'
"He strips 10 kilos off him over one summer and everyone says 'wow look at Sam Kasiano'."
There are fears that increased fatigue in the game through a drop in the interchange will only lead to more injuries, but Johns doesn't buy that.
"A lot of the fear mongering is about players getting injured under fatigue,' he said.
"I'm telling you the worst injuries happen from explosive hits, rather than fatigue injuries."
"Also from a player coming on fresh against a fatigued player," Kent added.
"What about the small, fast elusive kids now who haven't got a start.
"(Canterbury great) Steve Mortimer would be fla tout getting a game in the modern era."
Along with Kasiano another Storm player Felise kaufusi is further evidence players could adapt to a reduced interchange.
"Felise Kaufusi was struggling to finish training sessions a couple of seasons ago at the Storm," Johns said.
"Now he wins a lot of the runs and he's done it through hard work and training.
"One of the worst things you see in the game now is the third and fourth player in chopping at the legs.
"But if a player knows that once he leaves the field he is not coming back on, he's not running from 20 metres to chop legs."
"I think aesthetically too, the game just looked better when we had fatigue," Kent added.
"We talk about Alan Langer and what he could do and what could Johnathan Thurston do against a tired defence instead of every time he looks up he has 13 fit defenders looking at him."