Mystery injury could end Packer’s career
The NRL career of struggling Wests Tigers marquee prop Russell Packer is in danger of being cut short due to a mystery foot injury that has prevented him from running or taking part in a single ball work session all summer.
The predicament could lead to a medically forced retirement similar to those of Sam Burgess and Ben Matulino.
Packer, 30, again met with medical experts on Wednesday in an attempt to get to the bottom of the problem.
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He is believed to have suffered the injury playing NSW Canterbury Cup in late July and it required surgery.
But Packer has since not taken part in any team running sessions and it is unknown when or if he will be able to play again.
He will struggle to play any part in the Tigers' top squad in the foreseeable future given he just can't shake the pain.
It is particularly concerning for the Tigers from a salary cap perspective because Packer is said to be earning well over $700,000 a season and is contracted until the end of next year.
While the Tigers would have already paid him his wages between November and February, estimated to be in the vicinity of $250,000, they still have at least $1.2 million to pay before his contract finishes.
It is a huge salary cap burden that leaves coach Michael Maguire with little choice but to forge ahead with a front-row rotation that is short on experience and leadership.
While there have been rumblings that Packer and Maguire had a fallout very early on, Maguire has denied any dispute.
The Packer situation could be a blessing in disguise for the Tigers.
The NRL has shown in the past there is an avenue to have a players' wage wiped off the salary cap if it can be proven the injury was not pre-existing, as was the case with Burgess and Matulino.
While Maguire is not the type to complain about his predicament, you can only imagine the possible conversations behind closed doors since his arrival in relation to some of the recruitment decisions made under Ivan Cleary's watch.
Cleary brought Packer, Matulino, Josh Reynolds, Chris McQueen and Moses Mbye to the club following the departures of James Tedesco, Aaron Woods and Mitchell Moses.
Matulino was forced into early retirement because of a knee injury, which reportedly cleared almost $800,000 in salary cap space.
Packer played 19 NRL games in 2018 under Cleary but has not been seen in the NRL under Maguire since round six last year against Parramatta, when the Tigers were flogged 51-6 at Bankwest Stadium.