The Canberra Raiders Cup has become one of the first local leagues in NSW to implement an 18th man policy to help clubs deal with failed head injury assessments.
Similar to the recent changes implemented by the NRL, local clubs name an 18th man in their match day squad who can be activated should a player fail an HIA.
But unlike the NRL, whi,ch requires three HIA failures before an 18th man is activated, Canberra Raiders Cup sides can use their fifth bench member after just one player cops a head knock and is unable to pass the assessment.
League general manager Mark Vergano said the rule would help trainers as well, allowing them to err on the side of caution, with a team no longer disadvantaged by losing a player to a failed HIA test.
"We have a duty of care to the players and as a sport we are probably one of the best prepared to handle concussion, with all of our trainers level one or two qualified," Vergano said.
"Our trainers are now able to remove some of those decisions where they were stuck or had a dilemma about pulling them [concussed players] off the field.
"It's a positive sign to say that we expect players who have suffered a concussion to be removed from the game. The very early indication is that it has been a positive move and that we will persist with it for the season."
The new rule is one of many measures rugby league is taking to tackle concussion at the community level, which also includes mandatory non-contact periods for players who have suffered concussion.
Vergano said the players' understanding of the implications of concussion had been just as important in dealing with the issue as any rule or protocol.
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"In the last five years we have moved from it being tough to take a whack to the head and fight to stay on the field as a sign of toughness, to suddenly being very aware of what implications there are to someone who has been hit in the head," Vergano said.
"We are supportive of the multitude of research that's going on and ideally in some objective test to identify concussion.
"Whether it's the eye goggles that give a reading with the shooting of the light or whatever the technology is that's out there, we are more than happy to continue to invest in technology to help manage concussion."
Vergano was confident the combination of new research and procedures coupled with the evolution of the culture and education around head knocks had rugby league positioned to continue to improve the management of concussion. Canberra Raiders Cup action continues this weekend.