NRL Coaches Survey Part II: Belief that counterparts were exploiting concussion rules

NRL coaches have pointed the finger at each other, believing the the game’s concussion guidelines were being exploited. Check out Part II of our Coaches Survey.

Alarm bells were already ringing at the NRL over the serious issue of concussion — but they will be sounding louder than ever after coaches claimed their counterparts were exploiting the rules.

In a damning response as part of News Corp’s pre-season poll of 31 coaches and assistant coaches across the NRL, the overwhelming majority said they believed that the game’s concussion guidelines were being used to their advantage by their opponents.

The issue has been a point of debate among fans and pundits in recent years given the widespread suspicion that some coaches are rorting the system.

It seems as though the coaches have the same view given the response from the elite coaches involved in the survey conducted by News Corp.

Of those who responded to the poll, 25 coaches – more than 80 per cent – said teams were taking advantage of the concussion rules.

The NRL’s concussion guidelines have been a point of debate among fans and pundits. Picture: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images
The NRL’s concussion guidelines have been a point of debate among fans and pundits. Picture: Brett Hemmings/Getty Images

The response should be of concern to the NRL, who have investigated potential breaches to the concussion guidelines in recent seasons but opted to largely keep the results of those inquiries private in an attempt to placate club officials and medicos.

Concussion remains one of the most challenging issues in the game, with a rising number of past players emerging with issues related to repeated head knocks including Mario Fenech, Steve Mortimer, James McManus and Brett Horsnell.

NRL COACHES SURVEY PART I: COACHES SPLIT ON NRL TECHNOLOGY PUSH


Only five of the coaches polled felt that teams weren’t taking advantage of the concussion rules, while one coach opted not to answer the question.

The issue has been one of the most divisive in the game, with coaches privately pointing the finger at each other over the perception that some bend the rules.

The ball is now in the NRL’s court.

“It’s not really surprising coaches might be suspicious of each other regarding all sorts of on-field tactics, but the reality is the head injury rules are overseen by club doctors whose ethics and integrity are beyond reproach,” NRL head of football Graham Annesley said.

NRL coaches have had their say on the concussion rules debate. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
NRL coaches have had their say on the concussion rules debate. Picture: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

“If the coaches are referring to possible overuse of the free interchange rule, we have already announced a tightening of the rule that will practically eliminate the opportunity unless a player is sin-binned or sent off.”

Coaches were almost unanimous in their belief that the ARL Commission had made too many rule changes in recent times, a view shared across the game.

That stance no doubt played a part in the coach’s response to being queried over the performance of the ARL Commission.

The vast majority gave the commission a pass mark, but less than 10 per cent felt they had performed very well.

The coaches were also lukewarm over the standard of officiating – just over 60 per cent said it was good, while 10 coaches said it was not bad or poor.

The coaches also opened the door for the return of mid-season international fixtures after nearly 70 per cent said clubs should be obliged to release players for games.

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The coaches also gave the NRL food for thought as they stepped up attempts to prevent player agents from representing coaches and players.

The issue has been a bugbear at Rugby League Central for years and it is understood officials are ramping up plans to prevent player agents wielding so much power over clubs.

More than 60 per cent of coaches – 20 in total – said that player agents should not be able to manage players and coaches. Of the remaining 11 coaches involved in the survey, 10 – or 32 per cent – said they should be able to do both while one coach opted not to respond. 

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