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NRL to scrutine concussion loophole

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 17/03/2017 Steve Zemek

NRL clubs exploiting the concussion rule to gain a free interchange are set to increasingly come under the microscope, with Cronulla coach Shane Flanagan questioning whether coaches are taking advantage of a loophole.

It's understood the NRL sent a 'please explain' to Parramatta after skipper Tim Mannah had been taken from the field under the head-knock rules in dubious circumstances in round one.

The governing body last week sent a memo to all 16 clubs, reminding them not to abuse the head injury assessment system.

Under NRL rules, a player coming off to receive a concussion test does not count as an interchange and the Eels are under scrutiny over whether they have been using it to their advantage.

Parramatta were forced to deny feigning head knocks in an effort to receive an extra interchange after it was revealed they had used 46 concussion interchanges last year - more than any other club.

Concussion is a hot topic among clubs with former NSW winger James McManus on Friday beginning action in the Supreme Court against Newcastle over their handling of a series of head knocks during his career.

Flanagan said while most clubs were diligent in treating and protecting players who had suffered blows to the head, he hinted that some were using it to their benefit.

"There could be a few times when a player might not be concussed and they use it in that area," Flanagan said.

"But definitely not in a situation where he has a concussion and they put him back on."

All head injury assessments are scrutinised by a panel which includes NRL chief medical officer Paul Bloomfield.

No clubs have been sanctioned or fined over the first two rounds for abuses of the concussion rules but the NRL has put them on notice.

Questions were raised after Mannah came from the field during their opening-round win over Manly for a test after suffering what appeared to be a poke in the eye - a charge denied by the club.

"Our stance is that we look after our players," Eels coach Brad Arthur said.

"If we get told a player needs to come off because of a head assessment, well that's exactly what will happen. If they're allowed to return to the field, that's great. If not, we'll deal with it."

Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson said the NRL was attempting to balance two competing interests - looking after players and ensuring clubs didn't abuse the rules for a leg up.

"It's a fine line between are we abusing it or are we doing the right things," Robinson said.

"It's hard to judge. I don't think there's been one sanction from the NRL on concussion. I think it's up to the NRL and, if there's something wrong, they're the governing body."

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