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Gorden Tallis struggles to get head around concussion issue

Different era: Gorden Tallis (R) squares up to Terry Hill during the State of Origin.

Different era: Gorden Tallis (R) squares up to Terry Hill during the State of Origin. Photo: Action Photographics

The repercussions of the concussion discussion go on. Following TFF’s rant on it last week, I found myself in an animated discussion with Gorden Tallis on Triple M. Tallis, you will remember, was the Raging Bull of his day, a warrior like Ian Roberts in terms of his phenomenal ability to both give and take punishment all game long. And he was forthright. I am paraphrasing, but his thesis was this: “Fitz, when I played league and you played rugby, we knew there were risks. We accepted them. It is too late to whinge about it now.”

“Good on you, Gorden,” I replied, “now that’s down on tape, you’ve just blown your share of the class action from former rugby league players that is surely to come!”

But my more serious point is this. No, Gorden, we didn’t know the risks of concussion, per se. Certainly your generations and mine knew we could be knocked out, but we also felt - almost as a test of our manhood - that being knocked out was no big deal. Like most players of my generation, I was naïve enough to think it was only boxers who could end up punch drunk. But as NSW Boxing Authority doctor Lou Lewis noted last week, “A concussion is a concussion and most of the football ones are no different to those suffered in boxing. The impact is the same, it’s a severe transient injury to the brain whether it's due to a punch, a kick or a tackle when the head hits the ground. The brain doesn't know what's caused it, it just knows ‘I’m concussed'.” And that’s the point. Now that it is known, the football codes must make changes or they really will be liable to a massive legal suit.

Tim Mannah: knocked down, but not out against the Warriors, according to the NRL.

Tim Mannah: knocked down, but not out against the Warriors, according to the NRL. Photo: Getty Images

It's (not) a knock-out

And yet, while it is great that the NRL, particularly, has taken the lead in introducing much tougher guidelines to keep concussed players from playing on, the next step is to have the club officials actually follow those guidelines. For example, in the first action of the Parramatta vs Warriors match, Eels captain Tim Mannah caught the ball, took it up, and got clobbered so badly by three players he couldn’t play the ball properly or stand on his own. A short time later Will Hopoate was also hit hard, and was clearly more in Disneyland than at Parramatta Stadium. Both players returned to the field, despite the new medical protocols in place. I was most amazed to see the words of the NRL’s head doctor, Ron Muratore, a man who can claim a great deal of credit for getting rid of the shoulder-charge, and bringing in these new protocols.

“They did all the right things,” Dr Muratore said of the Eels medical staff. “I have read the doctor’s report and he was happy that [Mannah] wasn’t concussed and I was happy with what was written.”

OK to return: Will Hopoate against the Warriors.

OK to return: Will Hopoate against the Warriors. Photo: Getty Images

So what was it then, Doc? Flu? Nose bleed? Pulled muscle? Look at the footage! He was knocked motherless. The commentator even described it: “Like a boxer on the ropes, the legs buckle.” And yet he still returned to the field.

And yes, I know there are tests. But look at the footage! I have previously said strongly to both the ARU and IRB, that any test that allowed someone as badly concussed as George Smith to return to the field in the Third Test against the Lions, is worthless. I say to you, any test that allowed Mannah back on the field is not worth much more.

Time to Buddy up

Up in the air: Will the Swans' Buddy Franklin deal pay dividends?

Up in the air: Will the Swans' Buddy Franklin deal pay dividends? Photo: Anthony Johnson

And so the AFL season begins tonight, with all attention in this town on the Swans vs Giants match and Buddy Franklin, the man the Swans have bet the club’s future on, by committing $10 million over the next nine years. Let’s hope he has a blinder, tonight and indeed in all matches over that time period. And he might. But, me? If was on the board that took that decision, I’d be nervous. He has already had some kind of collapse in January that saw him rushed to the Emergency Department at the hospital, already had some kind of knee injury, and his form in the trials has been little more than so-so. So we’ll see.

Colourful racing vocabulary

A revised edition of the book Waterhouse and Smith by John Ellicott has just been released this week, and it includes a section on the More Joyous affair. Here is my favourite moment.

Happier times: Nash Rawiller, Gai Waterhouse, Yvette Hartman and John Singleton.

Happier times: Nash Rawiller, Gai Waterhouse, Yvette Hartman and John Singleton. Photo: Jenny Evans

“Gerry Harvey stood for a while in Randwick’s new multi-million dollar theatre of the horse, watching the runners slowly come in before the big race. The pleasant atmosphere of watching thoroughbreds walk around was suddenly turning into a Greek tragedy, and one great man was destined for a fall.

“Suddenly Gai stormed past Harvey. ‘Hi Gai, how you going with Singo?’"

“In a wild exclamation, Gai shouted ‘Wooo!’, and sailed past in a straight line towards [jockey Nash] Rawiller who was waiting for his riding instructions for More Joyous. Suddenly at Harvey’s shoulder was Singleton.

"'What’s going on?,’ Harvey asked.

“‘Oh, I just had a f**k f**k talk with Gai,’ Singleton replied.

“‘What’s a f**k f**k talk?’ Harvey asked, never having heard such a term before.

“Singleton spoke into Harvey’s ear: ‘Oh well, I’ve been given information the horse is not right and shouldn’t be running and is not going to win. So I said if she doesn’t win ‘I’m going to f**king take all my f**king horses off you’.”

Singo! They just don’t make ‘em like him anymore. (They’re not allowed...)

What's in a name?

After TFF’s item a fortnight ago concerning the most colourful names of sporting teams east of Broken Hill – I cited the Maitland Pumpkin Pickers and the Kyogle Turkeys - many readers have contributed their own favourites. So let's hear it for the Guyra Super Spuds; the Old Bar Clams; the Jindabyne Bush Pigs; the Mullumbimby Moonshiners; the Warilla Gorillas. And a special mention to the Parkes Spacemen and their juniors, the Space Cadets, together with the Bowral Blacks and their own junior team, the Short Blacks.

A matter of principal

What was that thing that looks like a “Gruffalo” - a cross between a giraffe and a buffalo, from the famous children’s book - walking from Radford College Junior School in Canberra to the National Library last Wednesday morning? It was one-time Wallaby winger Paul Southwell, who is now the headmaster of that fine educational institution, who was fulfilling his side of a deal that required his students to rack up one million minutes of supervised reading by the end of first term. Bravo.

What They Said

Ian Roberts, to TFF on Channel Seven, on the results of suffering too many concussions in his long and glorious rugby league career: “I’ve got brain damage . . . that’s the nuts and bolts of it mate.” You can see the interview here

Roberts: “You know when you are 25 at the top of your game, you know you’re 10 foot [tall] and bulletproof ... I’ve been acting now for 10 years, studying lines and that kind of thing. One day you have it down and then the next day you’re like, I have just lost all that info again.”

In light of the concussion news, Steve Roach thinks the current rules about being suspended for shoulder-charges are excessive: “I’m telling you they are going to make it a game of touch. Tell me, who are we catering for? It is a collision sport.” I give up Steve, is it the long-term health of the current generation of players we’re catering for? Is there anything more important? What am I missing?

A photo of a sign bearing this proclamation scrawled in chalk is doing the rounds on the internet. “Football is 90 minutes of pretending you’re hurt. Rugby is 80 minutes pretending you’re not.” FitzSimons takes the lead 5-4, first set. Simon Hill to serve.

Lance Armstrong on his legacy in the new documentary on him. “I don’t know what people in 20, 30, 40 years will think. I mean, is the record book still going to be blank for seven years? I guess it will be, I don’t know. Or will people look at this thing in the context that it is and say, ‘Yeah, he won the Tour de France seven times?’” Ponder no more, Lance. On your sporting tombstone, it will say, “World Class ... cheat.”

Strapper Dave Meijer on the great mare More Joyous. “She was a lot like her mother, a very private horse, not a horse into people or other horses or actually into the whole thing of racing.” In her spare time she liked reading, crocheting and occasionally going to the theatre incognito.

Torah Bright on a critic: “I laughed at first, because she obviously hadn’t done her research, and it made me think she hadn’t watched anything. Those who form an opinion without facts and truth ... their opinion really isn’t valid anyway.” I resemble that remark!

Coach Michael Cheika on the new Waratahs: “The biggest thing we’ve been working on is not being worried about losing. NSW teams in the past have been too worried about the possibility of losing and what everyone is going to say.”

Michael Clarke on resting after a long hard summer: “It’s been a busy six months and that’s as challenging mentally as it is physically. I’m looking forward to home, family, friends. My own bed and shower. The simple things.”

Graeme Swann on Dave Warner: “He’s performing on the field but I would never pretend he is a bloke I want to have a beer with.”

Frank Farina on Sydney FC: “I keep saying to the players there's not a magic wand, there's no secret formula. It’s a matter of working hard.” I gather, after a wobbly start, Sydney FC is coming a bit good, yes? Something like that, anyway.

Daniel Ricciardo on Sebastian Vettel: “A lot people are probably waiting for the day that we have an incident on track and get into a fist-fight or something. But at the moment all I can say is there's no issues.”

Gorden Tallis on Fox Sports on the great start by the Eels: “What turned things around for them in the off-season?”

Nathan Hindmarsh: “They are just enjoying their rugby league again.”

Matthew Johns, in a very strong piece for the Tele: "Ian Roberts has spoken, but there are many men of the 80s and 90s era who are showing worrying signs. There’s a brittleness in their handshake, a vacant look in their eyes, an inability to hold down a job, shake off addictions, remember friend and families."

The latest report on Michael Schumacher from Grenoble hospital: “Only a miracle can bring him back now ...”

TEAM OF THE WEEK

Tiger Woods. His score of 78 at Doral was the worst final-round score of his career, the first time he didn’t shoot a birdie in the final round - and just the 8th time in 1000 rounds of the PGA he has gone birdie-less. Tiger, Tiger, fading light?

Sydney Swans - Greater Western Sydney. Begin their season tonight with a game against each other.

Australian Paralympic Team. Our team of 9 athletes is one of 45 countries competing at Sochi, and they’re doing well!

Six Nations. All set for a grandstand finish tonight. Ireland get their first win in Paris since 2000 and the title is theirs otherwise it looks like England’s. Australian Steve Walsh will be the referee in Paris.

RIP Roy Higgins. Nicknamed "The Professor" the famed Melbourne Cup-winning jockey passed away aged 75. Rode Bart Cummings' first Cup winner Light Fingers in 1965 and Red Handed two years later.

Australian Schools Rugby Union Foundation. Lunch, April 11 at the Four Seasons Hotel. Go here if you're interested.

Eric Tweedale. At the age of 92, the Wallaby of the 1950s, has just acquired his first computer, which he needs in his new role as treasurer of the Ettalong Barber Shop Quartet. Mr Tweedale was among those honoured at a lunch this week for NSWRU life members, held at Fishermen's Wharf Restaurant in Woy Woy. Another Wallaby so honoured was 85-year-old Jim Phipps - the great grandfather of Wallaby half-back Nick Phipps.

Twitter: @Peter_Fitz

11 comments so far

  • I'm hearing you on the concussions, but, I've got to ask, what about the impact to the rest of the body? A life of pain from busted hips, blown out knees, and smashed shoulders is bad enough, but add in the nerve pain from the popped lumbar discs and agonising burning nerve pain from the busted neck and the picture get worse. The thyroid cancer from all the x rays is now fixed, is the stomach cancer from all the anti inflammatories ?
    I ache, I don't need the weather man to tell me when it's going to rain, I'm covered in scars, I get crankier by the year, I get depressed, will I get dementia, probably.
    Did I love every minute of it - yep. The challenge, the battle, the win, the mate-ship, the girls, and the memories, I'd HAPPILY go back and do it all again.
    Ask any old guy, "would you do it all again knowing what you know now" , the answer is always yes. Ask yourself the question Peter , I think I know the answer. Can we make it safer ? The Americans have tried and failed for years, the helmets and padding have only made it worse. Who can help you (?) maybe ask Dr Herb Groeller at The University of Wollongong for some advice or help.

    Commenter
    Scott B
    Date and time
    March 15, 2014, 1:28AM
    • Here I was thinking Greame Swann was a bit thick but he's showing great intelligence these days. After the way he walked out on his teammates when the going got tough in The Ashes, I bet he's the type of bloke who would try and sneak out of the pub when it was his shout at the bar too. Given Warners precedent with Pommy cricketers in pubs, I couldn't see them lasting long in a drinking session somehow.

      Commenter
      Pix
      Location
      Wollongong
      Date and time
      March 15, 2014, 1:35AM
      • Regards the Steve Roach comments , you state " I give up Steve, is it the long-term health of the current generation of players we’re catering for? Is there anything more important? What am I missing?
        I can tell you what your missing - its called a life lived. Where does the PC movement end ? When will we stop trying to insulate ourselves from the risk involved with living a happy and fulfilled life and in the process create a world of boring monotony? a bland sameness with all the zest completely evaporated in the vain attempt to stave off the inevitable - death. I remember I had a caged bird when I was a kid, I let him out knowing full well he would probably die. Even then I figured 1 day of freedom was worth more than 10 in a cage.
        At the current rate of stupidity sweeping western culture we will soon have outlawed sitting on the lawn for fear of being stung by a bee ( if there is any of them left ) , well at least we now know not to do it at midday as the suns rays are far more dangerous during this time.

        Commenter
        Zane
        Location
        La La Land
        Date and time
        March 15, 2014, 1:53AM
        • Why is a complicated medical test required to retire a concussed person from a sporting contest? Boxing manages the situation quite well. The ref counts ten and he's out. If on his feet but wobbly, he's out.

          Having your own paid staff assess a player's capacity to continue opens up the possibility of the medical staff being under pressure to keep a player on the field, especially in a clutch game scenario.

          The ref is independent of that and could easily do the job. They already have the power to send players off for infractions, for players' safety it's a no brainer.

          Geoff Eagar

          Commenter
          geoff eagar
          Location
          Toowoon bay
          Date and time
          March 15, 2014, 5:59AM
          • OK Fitzy, we all know the dangers of concussion, and acknowledge the fine work you have done to bring it to the public's attention, but can we please stop discussing it in every column, week after week? And I certainly hope you are not now embarking on a campaign to name and shame those out there (Big Gordy) that don't agree with your latest obsession!

            Commenter
            FaulcoBear
            Location
            Faulconbridge
            Date and time
            March 15, 2014, 5:59AM
            • I think we've found your problem. Tigers is old age and a crook back .
              He's been in some awkward places .

              Commenter
              Mankad
              Location
              Back with Barry
              Date and time
              March 15, 2014, 7:24AM
              • Schumacher update is truly tragic for him, his family and sports fans alike.

                Commenter
                My Pet Dog
                Location
                Bonny Hills
                Date and time
                March 15, 2014, 8:32AM
                • Sorry Fitz - I agree with you shy of 99.96% of the time but... I find your argument that "I didn't know getting knocked senseless was bad for me" rather thin. It's the same as smokers who said, "Oh, I didn't realise deliberately inhaling smoke into my lungs was bad for me."

                  There are some things you don't need a bloke in a white lab coat to tell you. And talk of class actions makes my stomach turn.

                  I do agree that we need to look at rule changes to make the great games of League and Union "safer" for the players. But they are collision sports and that's part of what players and fans enjoy.

                  You can counter this by having rules that promote attacking. Open field running is what really gets the fans onto their feet. Union has a way to go in this respect with a points system that encourages a negative mode of play.

                  I also agree that we need to have more rigour before letting players back onto the field. Every brave heart needs to be protected from themselves and their coaches.

                  Perhaps by having "brain suspension periods" where players are forced to sit out for 2 or 3 weeks, teams and fans alike will rally around efforts to minimise the brutality. Come what may - it will still be a tough game, but more sustainable.

                  Can't believe I have agreed with Tallis! :-)

                  Commenter
                  chattabox
                  Date and time
                  March 15, 2014, 11:44AM
                  • Another great team name: The Vincentia Van Goghs

                    Commenter
                    trinch
                    Location
                    south coast
                    Date and time
                    March 15, 2014, 2:38PM
                    • League, with the new rules, will hopefully step out of the "bash 'em" attitude. It's something that doesn't draw new fans.

                      Take a look at the new generation of forwards. Ian Roberts and Gordon Tallis were, in short, "meat missiles". The generation coming through are more than just meat missiles aimed at defenses. Yeah, they're tough, but what else have they got?

                      The way forward for league is to show the game is more than just "meat missiles" to new fans.

                      I'd love to see league shine on an international level, which is only possible if it's more than just "tough".

                      Commenter
                      EarlDanger
                      Location
                      Sydney
                      Date and time
                      March 15, 2014, 8:34PM

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