JUST weeks after former player James McManus launched legal action against Newcastle for their handling of a series of career-ending concussions, the club is again under scrutiny after an incident involving fullback Brendan Elliot in Saturday’s 24-18 loss to South Sydney.
Elliot was hit by a swinging arm from Souths centre Hymel Hunt in the 28th minute and immediately dropped to the turf, apparently motionless.
He spent several minutes receiving treatment before he resumed playing, without leaving the field for a head-injury assessment.
He continued playing until the 62nd minute, when he received a second head knock and was removed from the game.
High-profile media personality and former Australian rugby union international Peter FitzSimons, who has been outspoken about sporting concussions in recent years, fired a scathing broadside at the Knights on Channel Nine’s Sports Sunday show.
"Here is Newcastle, the same club that is being sued ... [Elliot] is clearly, 100 per cent, absolutely, no doubt about it, motherless,’’ FitzSimons said. “He is concussed.''
FitzSimons then challenged NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg and the code’s chief medical officer, Dr Paul Bloomfield, to examine replays of the tackle.
“Look at that and tell us how is it that that guy was not removed from the field, even for a head-injury assessment,’’ FitzSimons said.
FitzSimons said Elliot was “clearly concussed, and then he gets concussed again, and was taken off”.
Knights chief executive Matt Gidley said he had not been contacted by the NRL about the incident.
“The NRL have no raised any issue with the club regarding yesterday’s game,’’ Gidley said.
“If they ask for further details regarding the incident, we will provide all on-field/medical assessments.
“This is standard procedure with any incident the NRL opts to review.’’
An NRL spokesman said the incident “will be reviewed, along with a number of HIAs and head knocks over the course of the round.’’
Knights coach Nathan Brown was critical of the NRL’s concussion-replacement rules on Saturday, after losing both Elliot and Sione Mata’utia during the second half.
The Herald contacted Brown on Sunday for a response to FitzSimons’ comments but received no reply.
On Saturday, when asked about Elliot’s condition, the coach said: “Well, he got cleared and … they don’t clear them too much these days. Doctors are too frightened to clear them.’’
Under the NRL’s concussion protocols, there is a “slow to stand” guideline, which usually prompts a head-injury assessment.
Brown called on Saturday for the NRL to allow additional replacements to cater for concussed players.
“The game has got to address this, because obviously with legal cases coming up, doctors are more cautious, but we’re not addressing the bigger problem,’’ he said.
“The bigger problem is injured people being forced to stay on the field because we don’t have any players left.’’
Hunt was placed on report for the tackle on Elliot and was charged on Sunday with a grade-two reckless tackle, which carries a minimum suspension of four games if he takes the early guilty plea.
If he contests the charge and is found guilty, he would be looking at a six-game ban.
Asked for his view on the incident, Brown replied: “I’ll leave that with the referees and the judiciary …
“But if Brendan Elliott does have to leave the field because of that, and then the player does get suspended, who gets the benefit out of it?’’
Souths prop George Burgess also copped a grade-two striking charge for an incident involving Newcastle’s Mitch Barnett, which is likely to cost him two or three weeks out.
Rabbitohs winger Braidon Burns faces a grade-one shoulder charge – at least a week out – for a hit on Sione Mata’utia, while Newcastle prop Josh Starling can escape suspension if he pleads guilty to grade-one dangerous contact on Kyle Turner.