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Bennett dismisses NRL talk over 18th man

NZN 23/03/2017 Laine Clark

Renewed calls for an 18th man have been shot down by Wayne Bennett despite three NRL clubs being slapped with heavy fines for concussion protocol breaches.

The Brisbane coach has also bristled at the suggestion a player culture still exists whereby it is considered a badge of honour to play on after being concussed.

Newcastle coach Nathan Brown renewed calls for teams to be allowed a reserve to be injected when players are ruled out mid-game through concussion after the Knights, Gold Coast and St George Illawarra were fined a record total of $350,000 for concussion breaches this week.

Brown claimed he was forced to keep injured winger Nathan Ross (ankle) on the field due to a lack of cover after losing Sione Mata'utia and Brendan Elliot to concussion in last round's 24-18 loss to South Sydney.

But Bennett was having none of it.

"How many players do you want on the bench?" he said.

"Where does it all stop? I am not pushing for 18 players.

"We will lose a player then another and people will say we need 19. It's like a piece of string - there's no end to it."

However Bennett, whose last coaching job was with Newcastle, did empathise with the Knights' medical staff after the club copped a $100,000 fine for an incident involving fullback Elliot against the Rabbitohs.

Medical and high performance manager Tony Ayoub - who made the call that Elliot didn't need a concussion test - has more than 30 years experience.

Asked if independent doctors must be used for tests, Bennett said: "We don't need one.

"These club doctors are ethical. You are talking about their ethics here - they have reputations.

"There's an issue in Newcastle now and I worked with that doctor and I have a lot of time for him.

"My point is any doctor in the game is on tenterhooks more than ever - they know their responsibilities."

Bennett also took aim at Fox Sports for suggesting players still thought they had to play out games after suffering a concussion or they would be called soft.

"It was a badge of honour to get up if you got knocked down and played because it was expected, because if you didn't do it players spoke behind your back and called you soft - that culture still remains," Matthew Johns said on Fox Sports.

But Bennett dismissed the claim, suggesting Johns was out of touch.

"There was some ridiculous comment on TV the other day about the players," he said.

"These guys are making statements and they have never coached a game in their life.

"They haven't been to a training session for 10 years since they retired - don't start buying into that rubbish."

Bennett believed clubs had the players' best interests at heart.

"When you get knocked out you don't know where you are but your instinct is to stay on the footy field - that's what is happening," he said.

"They are not staying on the field because someone is making them."

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