Phil Gould has launched an astonishing attack on the NRL, accusing the league of ‘giving way to misinformation’ over the concussion issue and describing the independent doctor as the ‘greatest abomination’ in rugby league’s history.
Debate has raged over the issue in Round 1 after Kalyn Ponga was controversially removed from the field late in Newcastle’s loss to the Warriors on Friday night after sliding into the hip of Addin Fonua-Blake.
The Knights skipper claimed he was fine and did not know what incident had prompted the intervention of the independent doctor with the Knights down 14-12 before losing 20-12.
The incident was deemed by the doctor to be a category two, requiring Ponga to leave the field for 15 minutes to be checked.
Had the incident been identified as a category three, Ponga would have been able to stay on the field if he passed a trainer check.
Phil Gould has launched a scathing attack against the NRL’s independent doctor policy
Kalyn Ponga was removed from the field late in Newcastle’s loss to the Warriors
Canberra fullback Sebastian Kris also seemed unhappy to be forced off the field for an HIA on Saturday during the Raiders’ 19-18 loss against North Queensland
Speaking on Nine’s 100% Footy on Monday night, Gould was scathing of the role of the independent doctor.
‘I think the doctor in the bunker is the greatest abomination perpetrated on our game in history,’ he said.
‘It’s confusing for players. Not every bump to the head is a concussion, not every concussion is life threatening.
‘It’s total overkill and I don’t know how players and coaches are going to contend with this.’
Gould then accused the NRL of overreacting to the danger posed by concussions by ‘giving way to media and doctors and lawyers and all of this misinformation’.
Knights coach Adam O’Brien fumed at the call on Ponga, claiming the doctor was ‘jumping at shadows’, while Canberra fullback Sebastian Kris and Canterbury winger Jacob Kiraz also seemed unhappy to be forced off the field for an HIA on Saturday.
‘Not every slap in the face or every bump in the head requires a HIA,’ the Bulldogs supremo said.
It just would appear that old mate up in the bunker has decided that whenever someone gets a bump in the head they have got to go off and get checked for 15 minutes, which I find totally ludicrous.
‘It’s like arguing with people on climate change. It’s the same thing.’
Gould echoed the point made by Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett on Saturday, who suggested the system would be better placed solely in the hands of the clubs.
But he claimed the club doctors had come to be overly reliant on the independent medicos.
‘I understand players’ welfare [is important], so do the clubs. So do the coaches, so does everyone,’ he continued.
‘Unfortunately the club doctors are put in a position where they want the independent doctors because they don’t want to make a decision themselves and it’s just too difficult.’
‘It’s not going to change, the game will not back away from this. They [the NRL] are going to keep doing it and it’s going to create more and more problems.’
Gould’s scathing comments came just hours after NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo said game had the right measure in place in terms of identifying possible on-field concussions.
‘We’re not going to take a backward step on player safety,’ Abdo told AAP.
‘We have a responsibility to monitor all head injury events during matches. The club doctors do it on the field, the independent doctor does it from the bunker.
‘There is never a convenient time for a player to be removed from the field to be checked.
‘But player safety and thinking about the long-term wellbeing of the player is what comes first.’
NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo has insisted the independent doctor is here to stay
Abdo said the NRL had the right measures in place when it came to determine potential concussions during the games
Wayne Bennett has called for the NRL to remove the independent doctor and leave it up to the clubs to determine whether players have suffered concussions or not
On Saturday, Bennett called for the NRL to scrap the independent doctor in the bunker and put the onus for identifying possible concussions back solely on the clubs.
‘The game has never been more conscious about head injuries and I think we do a lot of things right,’ he said ahead of the Dolphins’ NRL debut.
‘But all they have done is take the onus off the clubs and put it to somebody independent.’
But Wests Tigers boss Tim Sheens and Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson backed the independent doctor role.