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Bend the rules, risk deregistration

Sydney Morning Herald logo Sydney Morning Herald 1/05/2014 Brad Walter
Joel Edwards of the Raiders receives treatment from trainers after a heavy hit during round five. Joel Edwards of the Raiders receives treatment from trainers after a heavy hit during round five.

Representative team coaching and training staff have been warned they face deregistration if the NRL's concussion rules are not strictly enforced in matches this weekend and in the State of Origin series.

While the Australia-New Zealand and Fiji-Samoa Test matches will be played under international rules, the NRL's sideline concussion policy still applies and officials have been told of the sanctions if there is a breach.

In the NRL, Canterbury were hit with a $20,000 fine after failing to replace Josh Jackson in their round two win over Cronulla, and a number of other incidents are under investigation, including one involving Bulldogs prop James Graham.

However, fines provide little deterrent at representative level and NRL head of football Todd Greenberg said coaches and trainers would, instead, risk their registration if players weren't immediately removed from the field in representative matches.

"It is prestigious, having a role or being appointed to one of the representative teams, and those positions are very well sought after so you can probably take it as read that sanctions at that level would apply to registration and people with authority to place those roles inside the game," Greenberg said.

"That will apply in State of Origin and there will be a very detailed briefing with the relevant staff before both Origin teams go into camp prior to the start of the series."

With players representing their countries or vying for positions in the NSW Origin team at Dubbo in Sunday's City-Country match, some may be reluctant to come from the field for a concussion assessment.

But Greenberg said the onus was on the trainers to immediately remove any player showing a symptom of concussion from the field.

"I think we have already seen incidents in the early rounds where players are the ones who are reluctant to come off," he said.

"But we've got to protect the players from themselves, in a way, and to do that we need to have people in authority who have the strength of character to make the decisions that need to be made, and sometimes that won't be in agreement with the players.

"This is part of the cultural shift over generations of players that they need to understand we are doing this for their own good."

Greenberg said briefings had been held with staff from each of the representative teams playing this weekend and they were aware of the possible consequences of any breach.

"The staff are well aware of it and there is no doubt the doctors are completely aware, but it is not something we can take our eye off and we will continue to apply the policy," Greenberg said.

"It is one thing to have the policy, and it is a much more difficult thing to genuinely apply and police it, and that is what we are doing.

"We are eight weeks into having this policy in place and, if we need to look at other things or do something more, we will do it, but the principle starts by getting the best people in these roles to apply the policy as we want it applied and if we think that needs more attention, we will do it."

Meanwhile, teams will not be awarded a zero tackle if the ball is kicked dead or be allowed to take a quick tap from a 40:20 kick, and the clock will not stop when the ball is out of play, in the Australia-New Zealand Test at Allianz Stadium or the Fiji-Samoa Test at Penrith's Sportingbet Stadium.

The Tests will also be controlled by one referee, with Shayne Hayne in charge of the trans-Tasman Test and Ashley Klein overseeing the Pacific Test, which is also a qualifier for the final Four Nations berth at the end of the season.

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