Leave concussion calls to clubs, not NRL: Bennett
Wayne Bennett has called for the NRL to scrap the independent doctor in the bunker and put the onus for identifying possible concussions back solely on the clubs, with fines and points penalties used to reinforce it.
The NRL's concussions protocols were thrown back into the spotlight on Friday night after Kalyn Ponga was removed from the field late in Newcastle's loss to the Warriors.
Ponga claimed afterwards he was fine and did not know what incident had prompted the intervention of the independent doctor with the Knights down 14-12 before losing 20-12.
Knights coach Adam O'Brien also fumed at the call, claiming the doctor was "jumping at shadows" after Ponga slid into the hip of Addin Fonua-Blake.
Ponga's head knock was deemed serious enough by the independent doctor - who was at the game in Wellington due to its remote nature - to be a category two, requiring him to leave the field for 15 minutes to be checked.
Had the incident been identified as a category three, Ponga would have been able to stay on the field if he passed a trainer check.
O'Brien's criticism comes after independent doctors were put in front of TVs at the start of last year, allowing them to review several angles of incidents quickly.
The NRL has said the positioning away from the field also helps ensure decisions are not impacted by the emotion of the game, and its independence takes the pressure off the club doctors.
But Bennett insisted on Saturday the system would be better placed solely in the hands of the clubs.
"The game has never been more conscious about head injuries and I think we do a lot of things right," Bennett said ahead of the Dolphins' first game.
"But all they have done is take the onus off the clubs and put it to somebody independent.
"The clubs have got to own it. The game, when they had a few moments in the last couple of years, didn't punish the clubs enough.
"They took some soft options with them but if you make clubs more accountable you don't need an independent doctor."
AAP has been told the move to use of an independent doctor was heavily supported by club medical staff.
In the role, the independent doctor works with the club doctors, with both having the power to remove players from the field.
Bennett said the solution was for the NRL to punish clubs with heavy fines and points deductions if they left players on the field when indicators showed the need for an off-field check.
"You will get rid of it pretty quick," Bennett said.
"It is like the rules on the contact to the head."
The NRL's head of football Graham Annesley hit back at coaches critical of decisions by the independent doctor last year, adamant such calls were a medical decision and not a football one.
Bennett is the NRL's most experienced coach, but the league's second-most experienced mentor Tim Sheens backed the independent doctor role on Saturday.
"It was a fair knock and Kalyn was stunned by it, but that's the doctor's role," Sheens said.
"Did it impact the game? Yeah, but the rules are the rules and that's it."
Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson also backed the current system.
"It's a good thing, because we have shown we can't always look after our own in the game," Robinson said.
"It's shown players will stay on depending what position they are in. We need to be independent."