I watched the NRL Grand Final last Sunday night at the Bristol in Cuba Street. I was going for the Rabbitohs and pleased to see them win. But I didn’t like what I saw from Bulldog James Graham – two tackles led with his head fractured Sam Burgess’ cheekbone and saw David Tyrell stretchered off the field with concussion, not to return. Burgess stayed on and is feted as a hero, including by his mum.
The NSW League is going to investigate whether Burgess should have stayed on the field as he was also apparently concussed. There are questions whether his head was targeted later as well.
I was sickened by what I saw. I think Graham was using his head to tackle. Top referees have pooh-poohed this – but the Liverpool kiss is a well-known weapon. The Americans have outlawed head-to-head tackles (in their case helmet -to-helmet.)
As athletes in contact sports get bigger and fitter contact gets more dangerous. If the head becomes a target, more headcases in later life are the inevitable result. The NRL is supposedly taking the issue seriously – how they deal with this issue and all the hype that has gone on already, from Russel Crowe on down, will be a good test case.
Peter Fitzsimons has the best take on it in my view
Personally, my fear is that, in years to come, I will look upon my enjoyment of that grand final the way I feel now whenever I see footage of the shambling wreck of a man that is Muhammad Ali. I don’t say that Burgess will turn into Ali.
I do say that he, and all of us who played football for a long time, will have to pay a price for whatever concussions we suffered and, as in the modern era some of those consequences are now known, all football codes have a moral and legal duty to seriously get to grips with minimising and managing it – with removing players from the field who have suffered it, and not putting them back out there.
And at the moment, as witness that grand final, the NRL is not remotely close.