The policy couldn’t be be fully tested in the Canterbury Cup – the second-tier competition below NRL – after the season was abandoned following just one round due to the COVID pandemic.
But it was used in other competitions ranging from the Presidents Cup to Harold Matthews and Harvey Norman Women’s Premiership, prompting “overwhelmingly positive” feedback in its first year.
The NSWRL also stipulate any player diagnosed with a concussion has to undertake a mandatory 14-day stand down.
“In some respects we’ve been leaders with some of the concussion protocols,” NSWRL chief executive David Trodden said. “It’s something we initiated because we thought it was a sensible protocol in the circumstances. If everybody accepts players who are diagnosed with concussion shouldn’t be on the field, then it’s perfectly logical they should be able to be replaced.
“We haven’t given the operation of the rule enough time to work out the nuances that might be associated with it, but certainly on the initial responses we’ve had the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s something we’ll continue and others might want to have a look at.”
Former Newcastle coach and now Warriors boss Nathan Brown previously led calls for the NRL to introduce a concussion substitute, a need no better evidenced than when the Rabbitohs finished a match with 12 players against the Roosters in 2019. They had four players taken from the field for head injury assessments.
The NRL will determine whether Cordner suffered a “category 1” ataxia, where a loss of muscle control or co-ordination is evident, after receiving the report from NSW. Under the code’s concussion protocols a “category 1” should immediately rule a player out of a match.
Longtime NSW doctor Nathan Gibbs defended the call for NSW’s inspirational leader to return to the field, telling the Herald Cordner “passed his orientation questions immediately and passed his HIA with no problems so I couldn’t confirm a concussion diagnosis”.
Blues legend Andrew Johns also launched a passionate defence of Brad Fittler’s medical staff.
“We all know he [Cordner] has had [concussion] problems this year, but the people involved… Nathan Gibbs, he’s been a doctor in rugby league for around 30 years, and for people to question his integrity [is wrong],” Johns told Wide World Of Sports’ The Blueprint.
“They just need to shut their mouths. Also with the Roosters and their medical staff, they’ve been the leader in the NRL. They’ve rested players longer than any other club with their players’ concussions. If you don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes, shut up.”
James Tedesco will captain NSW for the first time in the absence of Cordner.
Adam Pengilly is a Sports reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald.