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Stone defends Knights' actions on McManus

NZN 4/03/2017 Matt Encarnacion

Former Newcastle coach Rick Stone has defended the club's handling of James McManus's concussions throughout his NRL career, saying he holds no fear of any potential lawsuit.

McManus sent shock waves through the game last week after declaring his intention to sue the Knights over their handling of his head knocks during a career that ended prematurely in 2015.

The former Knights winger was knocked out in what turned out to be his final game - a 52-6 round-20 thrashing at the hands of South Sydney - before medically retiring early last year.

Coincidentally, the match was also Stone's last in charge of the club before he was sacked for poor results, but it had nothing to do with McManus's injury concerns.

"To be honest, I don't even remember seeing the incident. It was an off-the-ball incident, it came down from the bench, who said James is not playing and he was off the field," Stone told AAP.

"I'm really comfortable as a coach in my whole time at the Knights that we treated our players with the utmost respect and caution when it come to head injuries.

"I don't know any other way to be honest."

But Stone did reveal that McManus, who made his debut when Stone was an assistant to Brian Smith in 2007, had previously confided in him about his ongoing concussion concerns.

Stone conceded there may have been incidents during McManus's career he wasn't aware of.

"Me and James have been good mates for a long time. When I first got to the Knights, he was just breaking into reserve grade coming out of (under)-20s," he said.

"He's a really good fella, champion player, probably sometimes too brave for his own good. He would put his head where it might get hurt, it was always a tough part of the game.

"We have spoken about (his concerns), whether it was spoken about after the fact or during the fact. But I'm really comfortable that we protected James as much as we could've.

"I'm not quite sure if there's something that I wasn't privy to, but as far as I'm concerned, I'm more than comfortable."

Currently the head coach of Huddersfield in the Super League, Stone insists the Knights were one of the NRL's leaders in their approach towards concussions during his tenure.

He pointed to the club's relationship with renowned neurosurgeon Chris Levi at John Hunter Hospital, where every player who had copped a blow to the head was treated post-match.

He questioned whether McManus had a real case to sue the club.

"Look, I'm not exactly sure where it's going to get to. I'm supportive of the NRL and how they've managed it over the last couple of years," he said.

"They've gotten on the front foot and really been stringent with the head knock laws and they've challenged every club to manage our players with some integrity and honesty.

"In Newcastle, we've got a world leading neurosurgeon in Chris Levi who's come out of John Hunter Hospital. We're at a clinic every Monday for anyone who had any form of concussion.

"We believe we were as rigid as anyone in the game, and particularly supportive of a bloke like Levi who was not just a national voice, but a worldwide one on this particular matter."

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