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NRL’s grandstand finish doesn’t excuse reckless restart

Nup. No more wrong than if I had warned a drunk friend to not drive from Sydney to Newcastle. I would have been right to warn him not to do it, and not proved wrong if he got there without having a terrible accident. Fire at will, and see if I care.

Heading off a big problem

All of that said, they did produce a lot of entertaining football along the way, in no small part due to the six-again rule, which was great for speeding the game up. Peter V’landys may take a bow for getting it introduced. He has made his mark this season with strong decisions – not all of which I agree with, did I mention? Next season he will really have to crack heads to get the game sorted on the concussion front – or it will find itself on the end of a serious class action suit.

Peter V’landys must take a much stronger stance on concussion next season.

Peter V’landys must take a much stronger stance on concussion next season.Credit:Getty

It must start with one directive, and I will put it in the words of Dr Adrian Cohen of Headsafe, one of the country’s foremost concussion experts. Tell ’em, Adrian, what Mr V’landys should say:

“The HIA is supposed to be a safety net when there is DOUBT about a head injury. Not an automatic fallback. If it is obvious to the commentators, the fans, the video reviewers and to the TV audience then there is NO DOUBT. Eyes shut = NO HIA! If the lights go out … bring down the curtain, show’s over.”

As the Origin series illustrated, league authorities still have no clue on this, and I cite the cases of Boyd Cordner, Cameron Munster and James Tedesco as prime examples. Each man, to my eyes and the eyes of experts, was concussed, but were still given HIAs. And Cordner came back on!

As to Jai Arrow shaking Tedesco after he was felled in Wednesday night’s State of Origin decider, his defence was he didn’t know the NSW captain was concussed. Fine, but how the hell is it acceptable to rag doll a man just after he has been tackled in the first place? Could anything pose a greater risk of rattling an opponent’s brain?

Calling out Bennett

Not only do the rules have to change, but the entire culture. League not only needs concussion protocols that are rigorously enforced, but all those in league who spout bullshit on the subject need to be called out.

And I am calling you out Wayne Bennett on the subject of Jake Friend. I have written strong words before on what I see as your inexcusably “old-school” approach to concussion, but to my mind this example is even more egregious. We all saw what happened to Friend in Origin II as his head connected with the shoulder of an opponent, and he hit the ground clearly stunned.

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It was the subject of a NSW charge that Queensland were not taking their own concussion protocols seriously enough, in order to get Friend back for Origin III.

But you denied it, Mr Bennett.

“Jake never had a head knock, so that’s a fallacy,” you said.

What was it, Mr Bennett, if not a head knock? We could all see it. Was it his ankle that was hit, or his head?

“He didn’t get knocked out, is that clear?” Bennett went on. “I don’t care what NSW think … he didn’t get knocked out, OK?”

No one said he got knocked out. The whole thrust of concussion research in the past 15 years is that you don’t have to be out cold for serious damage to be done.

“Jake never had a head knock at any stage of the game, he had a shoulder injury from the week before and he hurt it again in the game,” Bennett said. “It was of no relevance to his head whatsoever.”

So this was about a shoulder injury? I repeat: I call bullshit, and egregiously dangerous bullshit at that.

If I was a league player bringing a class action a decade or two from now, making the case that while league knew about the dangers of concussion but didn’t take it seriously enough, that is precisely the kind of thing I would bring forward. How do you spout such transparent nonsense, Mr Bennett, and not get called out by the league itself?

Vale Greg

As funerals go, it was an inevitably sad one given Greg Growden was 61 years old when he shuffled off this mortal coil last Saturday evening – but there was joy and laughter, too, for a life well lived.

Limited to 100 mourners in Camellia Chapel at Macquarie Park Crematorium, we sat absorbed as – lovingly guided by Greg’s great long-time friend Ross Greenwood – we listened to some of Greg’s favourite pieces of music, interspersed with poetry and most particularly five wonderful eulogists, led by his children Anna and Angus, and his brother-in-law Chris Chard, all telling family stories. David Campese and fellow scribe Mike Coward spoke more of his diverse professional life.

Mourners included Mark Ella, John O’Neill and many of Greg’s colleagues from the Herald from the past SIX decades. If the hallmark of a great funeral is that it rejoices in the great things of the departed’s life, doesn’t skirt the difficult parts and brings to light a new side of them, then this was that. First and foremost, Greg was a family man, with an enormous passion for books, records, travel, cricket, rugby, journalism and life itself.

There were plenty of tears but there was joy and laughter, too, for a life well lived at Greg Growden's funeral.

There were plenty of tears but there was joy and laughter, too, for a life well lived at Greg Growden’s funeral.Credit:Getty

He did indeed love the rugby round, and his son Angus mentioned how he always jokingly said that “While New Zealand is the most beautiful country on earth … it’s a shame about the people.”

The All Blacks? Like us all, he admired them, but loved nothing more than seeing them beaten. Hence, the final scene of his life. Late Saturday evening last, in the palliative care unit at RPA, Greg has no more than an hour to live. Machines beep and nurses pass by, but the doctors have mostly gone as their work here is done. This is family only … waiting.

“Dad,” Angus says softly, “the All Blacks have been beaten by Argentina.”

A stirring. A rustle. And a croaked response:

Good,” says Greg, and indeed shuffles off.

Greg himself would have loved that story. Had it not been about himself – for, as noted at the funeral, he was not, unlike SOME people we know, a self-promoter – it would have featured in his long-time iconic rugby column, Ruck’n’Maul.

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I leave you, and Greg, with the last words of the funeral, spoken by Mike Coward, who talked of the deep friendship Greg had with the great cricketer and even greater cricket correspondent Tiger O’Reilly, who had an enormous influence on the way Greg approached journalism.

“We are deeply saddened today because Greg has gone away again – this time on an eternal tour,” Mike says, his voice breaking a little. “And if rugby is the game played in heaven, one senses he won’t have much trouble getting press accreditation.

“To close, I will use the words Greg chose when writing about Tiger O’Reilly’s death: ‘I cried for him, still think of him, talk to him, laugh with him and love him.’

“Well written Greg. Perfect summation of how we all feel today … Much love, mate.”

And so say all of us.

Over and out.

What They Said

President-elect Joe Biden, on Donald Trump playing golf every other day, even as America nudges towards two-thirds of a 9/11 in terms of lives lost every day, due to coronavirus. “The idea the President is still playing golf and not doing anything about it is beyond my comprehension.” This week, Trump will likely play his 300th game of golf in the last four years.

Daly Cherry-Evans.

Daly Cherry-Evans.Credit:Getty Images

Maroons skipper Daly Cherry-Evans after the Origin series win: “And on behalf of the worst ever Queensland team, thank you very much.” No one likes a smarty-pants, Daly.

West Tigers chairman Lee Hagipantelis on Josh Aloiai requesting a release and then dissing the club on social media: “He is either a Wests Tiger or he is mowing the lawns at Leichhardt or Campbelltown or painting the change rooms at Concord — as long as he fulfils his contract.”

Cate Campbell on the Shayna Jack verdict: “If you read the facts, you should be sympathetic. This is a complete accident and it could have happened to anyone. It could have been Cate Campbell. That’s the terrifying reality of being an elite athlete.”

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who I had previously pictured as a progressive force: “I think [rapists] should be hanged publicly. Rapists and child molesters should have public hanging. You do not know the real statistics as well, because it’s under-reported. People do not report it due to being scared or ashamed, women are ashamed, no one wants to tell.”

Nick Kyrgios.

Nick Kyrgios.Credit:AP

Nick Kyrgios: “As I grow older and experience more and do more, I actually take tennis – not less seriously – but I don’t carry such a weight. I don’t really care about if I lose a match. It kind of brushes off quite easily now. I know what really means something to me. Tennis is just my job, really. It gives me a platform to do other things I want to do, and that’s how I look at it.”

Lewis Hamilton on equalling Michael Schumacher with seven F1 World Championships: “Very rarely do I lose control of my emotions. Those last few laps, we were having the discussion whether we were going to pit, I was just telling myself, ‘keep it together, Lewis, you got this’ . . . So all these emotions were running through me and I was trying to stop it. I didn’t want the visor to come up and people to see tears cry. I always said I am not going to let you see me cry, but it was too much.”

Head of BBL, Alistair Dobson, on changes to the rules: “The Power Surge, X-Factor and Bash Boost prioritise high-scoring, exciting cricket, introduce new strategic angles and ensure there’s always something to play for throughout the entire match.” I’ll take his word for it, but it can’t be long before they award 10 runs if anyone jumps over a shark in the outfield.

Jon Rahm’s reply to a question if he helped out looking for Bryson DeChambeau’s lost ball: “Which one?”

Jai Arrow.

Jai Arrow.Credit:Getty

Jai Arrow defending himself after etching his name in Origin infamy by rag-dolling James Tedesco, moments after the NSW captain had been knocked out cold: “In the heat of the moment, a decider at Suncorp [Lang Park], of course I am out there to try and hurt people. But not intentionally when they are in a bad way.”

Argentina captain Pablo Matera on beating the All Blacks: “This is a big day for Argentina rugby and also for our country and people. It is very tough there at the moment and it was tough for us to come here and prepare. We just want to show our people that if you work hard with a lot of determination, you can get things done. We are really proud of this team and of our country.” And the rugby world is proud of them.

NZ Herald scribe Chris Rattue on All Blacks coach Ian Foster:“The way the All Blacks are playing shows that the many critics of Foster’s appointment were on the money. He’s not the whole problem, not by a long way. But he is a problem, and a big one. His haywire selections for the previous Test in Brisbane reflected an arrogance which beset the All Blacks in [Steve] Hansen’s final years.” These proved to be merely his opening remarks.

Team of the Week

Queensland. Sigh. Against all odds, they win Origin – as they so often seem to do.

Dustin Johnson. Won the Masters, his second major.

Cameron Smith. Lost his moniker of “the other one” as the fast-rising Australian golfer finished second at the Masters, while also becoming the first player in history to have four rounds at the Masters in the 60s. In other news, Australia now has a fourth “Paul Kelly” in public life.

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Argentina Rugby. In this crazy of crazy years, Los Pumas defeated the All Blacks. A wonderful result, almost as unexpected as the Japanese beating the Springboks in the 2015 World Cup.

Josh Green. The young Australian basketballer, who was once with the GWS Giants, has been picked up in the first draft of the NBA and will play with the Dallas Mavericks.

Kim Ng. The new general manager of the Miami Marlins is the first woman to hold such a position in any of the big four North American professional sports leagues

William ‘Billy’ Smith. Oldest surviving Melbourne Cup-winning jockey, has passed away, aged 92. Rode 1960 winner Hi Jinx.

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