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Concussion overhaul, Rugby League Players Association, Clint Newton, Mitchell Moses, Cameron Murray

The Rugby League Players union has called for an overhaul of the NRL’s concussion rules after the players were left vulnerable in farcical scenes during the 2022 finals series.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported NRL club’s 18th man would be activated after two players were ruled out with concussion or if three players suffered game-ending injuries under a proposal designed to protect players and the integrity of the game.

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Under the current rules teams can only use their 18th man if three players are ruled out for failing head injury assessments and the substitute cannot be used for non-concussion injuries.

The players union under Rugby League Players Association chief executive Clint Newton wants changes to avoid scenes like the Roosters’ finals clash with the Rabbitohs where multiple players suffered injuries and there were allegations players stayed down to win their side a penalty.

“Last weekend was a classic example, on one of the biggest stages, we’ve left players in a vulnerable position,” Newton told The Herald.

“Teams get an unfair advantage due to clubs doing the right thing by getting players off the field. Matches affected by multiple game-ending injuries like concussion or muscular-skeletal injuries, that will result in added physical demands on players.

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Mitchell Moses and Cameron Murray.Source: FOX SPORTS

“It can increase the risk of injury to the remaining players. It’s like driving a car – the more fatigued you are, the more chance you are of making a bad decision and potentially getting injured.”

Newton believes the three players suffering concussions in order to activate the 18th man was a high benchmark, as evidence by the fact it has rarely been used since the protocols were introduced in 2021.

Newton wants a free interchange introduced to stop teams feigning injuries to activate the 18th man.

“There’s a lot of chat about clubs gaming it and damaging the integrity [of the game]but you can put things in place where if a player was to leave the field after, say, three injuries occur, and it left them a man down, and you activated the 18th man, there’s options like giving the other team an interchange, Newton said.

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“That way the other team isn’t suffering an unfair advantage by people going off. That gives a level of compromise there.

“Or if a player comes off the field if they are deemed concussed, and it’s a non-reportable offense for foul play, you could give the other team a free interchange.

“There are mechanisms to offset gaming because we don’t believe that gaming should be placed at a higher priority than potentially putting players in more vulnerable positions.

“Everything should be under review, and this area is one of them.

“The game last weekend suffered as a result due to a rule that isn’t functioning as well as it could have.”

Head knocks have played a major role in the 2022 finals series with both Mitchell Moses and Cameron Murray playing a week after suffering head knocks, while James Tedesco was ruled out of the majority of the Roosters’ loss to Souths with a concussion.

The Roosters were left without a player on their bench at one stage in the second half of their season ending loss, which would have been the perfect time to activate the 18th man under the new proposal. .

There are calls for the NRL to introduce a mandatory one week stand down period for players that fail HIA’s similar to the AFL’s protocols.

The Sydney chapter of the Concussion Legacy Foundation is pushing for major football codes to ban tackling in children’s sport until the age of 14.

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