Fines could scare medicos out of the game: Doust

St George Illawarra chief Peter Doust has fired back at the NRL over the $100,000 fine dished out to the club for a breach of the concussion policy, saying there was a risk that medicos could be lost to the game.


The Dragons were one of three teams fined a total of $350,000 over incidents in round three as NRL chief Todd Greenberg made an unprecedented stand on upholding its regulations around the handling of head knocks.

The episode that led to the Dragons being sanctioned, involving Josh Dugan during their win over Cronulla on Sunday night, was complicated by a sideline television monitor not working at the time, meaning club doctor Tom Carrigan could not provide an assessment of the impact of prop Russell Packer’ elbow on the fullback. The team’s head trainer, Nathan Pickworth, as a result performed an on-field check of Dugan and was satisfied he was not concussed.

The Dragons are disappointed the integrity of their medical staff has been brought into question by the breach. Doust, speaking at a Hellenic Club function to honour the roles of league powerbrokers Nick Politis, Nick Pappas and George Peponis, said the consequences could potentially be far reaching.

“There is a risk there that we won’t have professionals prepared to be associated with our game if we don’t listen to them,” Doust said.

“Nobody is saying that we’re not but it’s a very, very difficult issue particularly from the clinical perspective. Diagnosing concussion is not easy. I think it’s complex to take incidents and apply policies as a general rule.”

The Dragons have until Monday to lodge a submission appealing the fine and Doust issued a strong defence of his staff on Thursday.

“We support and have a great solid track record on player welfare, player well-being, education,” Doust said.

“We’ve put our players at the highest possible level of priority as far as their well-being is concerned for a long time. We’re very disappointed that the circumstances of Sunday have led to this breach. We”ll be supporting our staff as well because they’re professionals as well in their own rights.”

While Doust came out emphatically behind his medical staff Dragons coach Paul McGregor on Thursday added his voice to the push for teams to have an 18th man to assist them in replacing players who failed a head injury assessment.

Newcastle coach Nathan Brown called for the NRL to revisit that issue after he lost Brendan Elliot to a HIA after which the Knights were also fined $100,000 for an earlier concussion breach involving the fullback.

They do not have a co-sponsor for the proposal in Wayne Bennett, however.

“Look, how many players do we want on the bench?” the Broncos coach said. “At the end of the day you could get a serious leg injury and have to come off. Where does it all stop? I don’t care whether they have 18 … 17 I am happy with … but if they want to go to 18 that’s fine. But I am not pushing for 18 because as I said, we will lose one of those and we will put him on, we will lose another one and people will say we need 19 now. It’s like a piece of string.”

The NRL hit the Dragons, Knights and Gold Coast Titans with fines only weeks after it was revealed that former Newcastle winger James McManus was suing that club over claims of negligence in dealing with the concussions that ended his career.

The early season incidents have led to the concept of independent doctors again being back on the table but Bennett does not believe they are required.

“We don’t need an independent doctor. I don’t believe that. Doctors are ethical,” Bennett said. “You’re talking about their ethics here. These guys have reputations. You have an issue in Newcastle now and I worked with that doctor down there. I have a lot of time for him.

“So my point is any doctor that is in the game now is on more tenterhooks than ever. I don’t believe we need an independent doctor. They know their responsibilities and they are extremely ethical people.”