Classy NRL response to crisis and Kalyn Ponga concerns: The good, bad and ugly of round 12

Adam Lucius dives into the good, the bad and the ugly of round 12 of the NRL season.

Kalyn Ponga is pictured with contact being made to his head by a Manly opponent, while Phil Gould is pictured right.
Kalyn Ponga played out Newcastle's win over Manly despite copping several knocks to the head, while Phil Gould has slammed the two-game Women's State of Origin series. Pictures: Getty Images

😃 The good: How Raiders and South handled Corey Harawira-Naera's collapse

😔 The bad: No potential decider for Women's State of Origin

😡 The ugly: More head knocks for Kalyn Ponga

NRL gets it right in 'scary' Corey Harawira-Naera situation

Every so often you are reminded of the courage and toughness required to play rugby league.

While the majority of us watch from the safety of the stand or at home on the couch with a beer in hand, 26 players are going at each other for 80 minutes in what would be termed assault if it was conducted anywhere but on a sporting field.

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The frightening images of Canberra's Corey Harawira-Naera convulsing on Accor Stadium after what appeared to be a delayed reaction to contact of some sort was a jarring reminder of the dangers of this sport. Rugby league is a tough game played by tough men (and women), but the response to Harawira-Naera's injury was also a reminder of the good in the game.

Broadcaster Fox Sports sensitively handled the situation, refusing to replay images of the incident and being careful not to speculate on his condition until all the facts were known. Players from both sides formed a shield around Corey, offering him some privacy while medical staff provided him with the best of care and attention.

The fans, sensing the enormity of it all, sat in respectful silence before clapping Harawira-Naera from the field. Canberra coach Ricky Stuart showed genuine concern for his player, racing to the sideline to receive first-hand updates and speaking with great emotion - and appreciation - after the game.

And referee Grant Atkins handled a very delicate situation superbly. Thankfully, it appears the Raiders forward will be okay and hopefully there's a return to the game in the near future if he receives all the required medical clearances.

A good news story from what was a very bad situation.

Gus Gould exposes farcical Women's Origin reality

It’s not every day you find yourself nodding in agreement with Phil Gould. But occasionally you find yourself on the same page as the great man, as we did while watching Parramatta bring down North Queensland on Friday night.

About an hour into the game, talk turned to the upcoming women's State of Origin series and the fact it's across two games and not three. "In a two-game series (if it) ends 1-all, what happens then? Gus asked.

When told it would be decided on the aggregate score across the two games, he thundered: "How do you have a two-game series?

"One-all and we'll go on aggregate? Please. I'll be campaigning for a decider. Don’t worry girls, I'll get you a decider.

"I'll find a ground for them…come and play at Belmore if you like. I'll put it on."

Gus is right. Either play one game or three to ensure a clear-cut result.

It's what the men have been doing for 40-plus years. So far no one has put forward a sensible explanation as to why we're the women are not getting three games.

Don’t tell me it’s come down to dollars. With the women now getting $15,000 each per Origin, the cynic in me tells me that's the real reason.

Leading NSW player Millie Boyle certainly thinks so, declaring: "It's probably money. They don't have the money to put a third one on, I don't know. I can only see money or broadcasting as an issue."

Gould's comments were made half tongue-in-cheek, but let’s hope his campaign gains some traction.

Further concerns around Kalyn Ponga head knocks

Kalyn Ponga turned in a masterclass of a performance to lead Newcastle to victory over Manly on Sunday. But should have been left on the field to work his magic?

Ponga copped three head knocks but none were deemed heavy enough for him to go off for an HIA. Not even the shoulder to his head which landed Manly centre Tolu Koula in the sin bin.

"I just have to play games, I can’t worry about that unfortunately," Ponga said of the knocks.

"But fortunately today I had a couple and (they had) no effect and I felt fine. It's a part of footy and a part of my game."

We're not second guessing the medical experts here but surely, given Ponga's extensive head injury history, at least one of the knocks deserved closer examination. The Knights skipper certainly didn't seem impeded by the collisions, playing a starring role to drag the home side over the line.

But that doesn’t mean damage wasn't done. Ponga doesn't know for sure they had no effect on him.

What it did underline is Queensland coach Billy Slater was right to take a cautious approach with Ponga and leave him out of Origin I. Every time the Newcastle superstar cops even the slightest of bangs to the head, questions will arise as to whether he should stay on the field.

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