Penrith Panthers’ travel advantage raises concerns over integrity of NRL competition

Penrith Panthers’ travel advantage raises concerns over integrity of NRL competition

In a record breaking run of 11 straight victories, the Penrith Panthers have looked fitter, faster and fresher than their premiership rivals. And this is the reason why, reveals PHIL ROTHFIELD.

Phil Rothfield , The Daily Telegraph

Subscriber only
August 31, 2020 8:27am

NRL: The Penrith Panthers have made it eleven wins in a row after registering a comprehensive win over the Wests Tigers.

In a record-breaking run of 11-straight victories, the Penrith Panthers have looked fitter, faster and fresher than their premiership rivals.

And this is the reason why.

When the NRL structured the draw, the Panthers were handed a huge advantage with the most favourable and recovery-friendly travel schedule of the 16 teams.

The tearaway competition leaders have had only two games outside of Sydney — a bus ride to the Central Coast and a plane trip to the Gold Coast.

You don’t need a sports science degree to work out this gives them a clear edge.

The Panthers have travelled just 975 km outside of Sydney this season compared to the Cowboys and their gruelling 15,786 km.

It might be good for their frequent flyer points but not for their weekly rehab.

The Canberra Raiders have been on 10 road trips compared to Penrith’s two.

Four of them were long-haul bus trips where big men like Josh Papalii can barely squeeze their legs under the seats.

The figures may explain to some degree why the QLD clubs have struggled for much of the year, although being based on the Sunshine Coast has certainly not affected Melbourne Storm.

To be fair the Panthers have two interstate coming out that will go some way towards evening things out, but their early-season draw has them well placed to all but secure the minor premiership.

In previous years it has been easier to cope with travel because teams arrived a day earlier, acclimatised and had recovery after the game rather than head straight to the airport.

NRL Physio Brien Seeney says the travel factor is significant.

Studies in major sport in the United States and the UK prove it.

“The effects of travel definitely influence performance, recovery and injury risk,” he said.

“There have been studies done that show away teams actually suffer more injuries than home teams.


“It’s been done in the NBA and the EPL. They found a statistically significant increase in injuries for travelling teams.”

The Panthers and Wests Tigers have travelled interstate only once.

Then you look at the Cowboys.

For one game, in round five against the Warriors in Gosford, they were on the road for 17 hours.

The players left home in Townsville at 9.30am and arrived at the airport at for a temperature check. The flight left at 11am and arrived in Newcastle at 1.30pm.

It’s then a 90 minute bus ride to arrive in Gosford at 3pm for a 6pm kick-off. They left the ground at 9.30pm on a bus to get an 11.30pm flight from Newcastle to home.

They walked in their front doors at 2.30am.

And you wonder why they’ve lost their three highest paid players to calf muscle injuries – Michael Morgan, Jason Taumalolo, Jordan McLean and Val Holmes.

“There’s definitely negative factors to all travel,” Seeney said, “After a game you should be focusing on recovery and sorting out the little niggles.

“If you’re sitting on a bus or getting to the airport and jumping on a night time flight, getting home at two in the morning, it’s far from ideal.”

Then there’s the sleep factor.

“It all about your circadian rhythm which is the cycle in the brain that keeps all the body’s functions in sync,” Seeney said, “When it’s disrupted you can struggle to sleep for a few nights. It can leave you drowsy during the day.”

Decreased oxygen levels also have a major effect in recovery.

“At ground level oxygen saturation usually sits around 97 per cent,” Seeney said, “Up in the air it’s about 93 per cent.

“As an example, if you were in hospital as a patient a level of 93 per cent would sometimes prompt doctors to put you on supplemental oxygen.

“The decrease in oxygen is going to slow muscle recovery.

“The other big thing is the humidity level. Aircraft are usually about 20 per cent humidity level, well below the body’s requirements which are 30 per cent. It makes hydration really important.”

As a result of playing 14 of their 16 games in Sydney, the Panthers have had a great run with injuries.

They have just four players on their injury list - Kurt Capewell (knee, round 17), Api Koroisau (calf, round 17), Dean Whare (toe, round 18) and Charlie Staines (hamstring, indefinite).

You compare that to other clubs.

The Sydney Roosters have lost Luke Keary (ribs, round 17-18), Angus Crichton (knee, round 18), Matt Ikuvalu (ankle, round 18), Mitchell Aubusson (wrist, finals), Lachlan Lam (ankle, indefinite), Victor Radley (knee, season), Sam Verrills (knee, season) and Billy Smith (knee, season).

No doubt the NRL will be under pressure to do something about it with next year’s draw to protect the integrity of the competition.

The Penrith situation and benefit they are getting is an issue the clubs and coaches are all talking about.



1 Gold Coast 867 km

1 Gosford 108 km

Total 975 km


1 Brisbane 908 km

1 Newcastle 163 km

Total 1071 km


1 Newcastle 90 km

1 Gold Coast 914 km

6 Sydney 462 km

1 Tamworth 335km

Total 1801 km


1 Gold Coast 836 km

1 Brisbane 908 km

1 Newcastle 163 km

Total 1907 km


2 Brisbane 1816

1 Gosford 77

1 Canberra 286

Total 2179 km


1 Gosford 77 km

1 Brisbane 908km

1 Wollongong 90 km

1 Newcastle 163km

1 Sunshine Coast 1020 km

1 Canberra 286 km

Total 2454 km


3 Gosford 231 km

1 Townsville 2070 km

1 Newcastle 163 km

1 Sunshine Coast 1020 km

Total 3484 km


1 Townsville 2070 km

2 Gosford 77 km

1 Gold Coast 836km

1 Brisbane 908 km

Total 3891 km


2 Brisbane 1816 km

1 Townsville 2070 km

1 Gosford 77 km

Total 3963 km


5 Sydney 815 km

1 Tamworth 282 km

1 Townsville 1945 km

2 Gosford 180 km

1 Sunshine Coast 874 km

Total 4096 km


1 Brisbane 908 km

1 Melbourne 876 km

1 Canberra 286 km

1 Townsville 2070 km

Total 4140 km


1 Canberra 1110 km

1 Townsville 1414 km

4 Sydney 3344 km

Total 5868 km


1 Melbourne 660 km

2 Gold Coast 2220 km

1 Townsville 2170 km

6 Sydney 1716 km

Total 6786 km


1 Townsville 1300 km

3 Gosford 2940 km

3 Sydney 2720 km

1 Canberra 1180 km

Total 8140 km


6 Sydney 6120

1 Gosford 1110

1 Canberra 1290

Total 8520


5 Sydney 10,350 km

1 Gosford 2077 km

1 Gold Coast 1414 km

1 Newcastle 1945 km

Total 15786 km

He claims the Panthers have had a massive advantage yet the Tigers are next on the least travelled list and they’re coming 11th. :joy:


They also have a crap roster though.

The Cowboys, Broncos, Storm, Raiders and Gold Coast have had to travel the most.

Absolutely fucking ground breaking stuff from Buzz. Who would have known?

Cracking article old mate.


Idiotic, stupid article.

1 Like

I was reading today that Tamou looks like joining the Tigers and Hetherington may join the Warriors. If Mansour can get a 2 or 3 year deal he’ll be released early as they’re not offering him anything past 2021.

This is so they can re-sign Chrichton, Burton, May and Staines

1 Like

So going off that list Souths have travelled more than any other Sydney team . Yet no mention , nothing to see here.Along with no mention of Injuries to our mob and the loss of 3 club legends it’s a magnificent effort from where I’m sitting