North Queensland interim coach Josh Hannay has questioned whether flying to and from games on the same day was contributing to the Cowboys' heavy injury toll after captain Michael Morgan limped off due to a calf problem.
Morgan exited Netstrata Jubilee Oval just 15 minutes into Saturday night's 28-12 loss to Cronulla and underwent scans after the team's return to Townsville to determine the extent of the injury.
The Cowboys announced on Sunday that he would be be sidelined for three weeks so he could potentially return late in the season.
The star playmaker is the third Cowboy to suffer a calf injury in matches in Sydney since the Telstra Premiership resumed on May 28 and Hannay believes it may be related to the travel arrangements in place to allow teams to avoid quarantine after crossing the Queensland border.
"I thought we started with some enterprise and then we lost Michael Morgan, our halfback and a fairly influential player," Hannay said.
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"That is three times on this road trip – we lost Jordan McLean in the opening 10 minutes of a game earlier this year to a calf injury, Jason Taumalolo last week to a calf and Michael Morgan in the opening 10 minutes this week to a calf.
"They are fairly influential players and there is no doubt that the road trip takes a toll."
The NRL charters planes to transport teams playing interstate and they usually land up to four hours ahead of kick-off before being transported by bus to the stadium.
The direct flight from Townsville to Sydney is about two and a half hours.
"That's not my expertise but there is a bit of a trend there with three guys doing calf injuries on same day travel," Hannay said.
"Under normal circumstances we would either fly down the day before the game or two days prior to the game in some instances. I think that just gives the players an opportunity to get over the flight and then play the game the next day."
Hannay said Morgan was frustrated to suffer another injury after playing just two previous matches since recovering from shoulder surgery.
"I've got no doubt he would be shattered," Hannay said. "He is our skipper and he wants to be out there helping out so he will be as disappointed as anyone.
"The fact he couldn't come back on I would say he is going to miss some time. It has been a bit of a revolving door with injuries for us. We got Valentine Holmes back and then lost Jason Taumalolo one week and Michael Morgan the next.
"We will just have to hope for the best with Michael and get on with the job at hand."
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Hannay praised forwards Tom Gilbert and Mitch Dunn for their efforts against the Sharks, saying: "I thought a couple of young boys became men out there tonight".
However, he made it clear that he wasn't happy with all of his players.
"We had a couple of players that their DNA was all over a couple of the tries that Cronulla scored and I felt they let the side down," he said.
A decision on the North Queensland coaching job is expected soon and Hannay believes he is still in contention.
"I would like to think so," he said. "I have had my interview with the club and I think the process is at the pointy end and they will be keen to make a decision in the next week or so."