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NRL coaches debate independent doctor test

NZN 26/05/2017 Matt Encarnacion

The decision to trial an independent doctor in next week's State of Origin opener has been met with mixed reaction by club coaches as debate grows on its introduction to the NRL.

The merits of an independent medical figure at NRL games have picked up this week after the governing body's confirmation that doctor Daelyn Cullen will oversee this year's interstate series.

NRL head of football Brian Canavan said it would be a precursor ahead of its possible implementation in the season proper, however some coaches remained unsure of its value.

The experiment follows revelations former Gold Coast doctor Paul Ohmsen quit the club earlier this year after the Titans werew fined for flouting concussion rules.

Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan feared doctors would be reluctant to continue working at clubs as pressure continued to build on their decisions during matches.

"If we're going to start fining clubs that are doing the right thing or trying to do the right thing and putting pressure back on the doctors, it's going to be hard to find them," Flanagan said.

"I don't know where you're going to get them.

"The club doctors, they care for our players seven days a week. Their best interest is the player - not the club. I can only speak for our doctor - he cares.

"Our players are there at midnight some nights, knocking on his door. Coughs, colds, whatever it may be, and they have a real genuine care for our players.

"I think we're heading in the right direction. I don't think there's too much change needed."

Canterbury counterpart Des Hasler was undecided on whether he would support the introduction of a neutral professional to assess head knocks during games.

"When you look at that sphere, it's about the care and the wellbeing of the individual. And a doctor has a very important role in that," he said.

"Whether that doctor is a club doctor, independent doctor, as long as they get it right."

Parramatta coach Brad Arthur, who earlier this year vehemently defended accusations the Eels were exploiting concussion laws, was reluctant to comment.

"We're very comfortable with our doctors; they do a great job for us," he said.

A NRL spokesperson told AAP the addition of an independent expert in the Origin series should not be seen as a precursor to future procedures and guidelines in the competition.

"Clearly, there are logistical, resource and technological challenges in having the type of procedures employed in State of Origin also used in eight premiership matches each weekend," he said.

"As the State of Origin team doctors are not the participating players' NRL club doctors, the use of an independent expert is an additional measure of support for the Origin series, ensuring the welfare and safety of players continues to remain the top priority in the game, particularly in marquee matches such as these."

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