'Utter disgrace': NRL world up in arms over 'sickening' incident

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Sean Keppie, pictured here collapsing near the play-the-ball.
Play wasn't stopped despite Sean Keppie collapsing near the play-the-ball. Image: Fox Sports

Manly coach Des Hasler has called for a further review of game stoppages after play was allowed to continue despite Sean Keppie suffering a heavy concussion on Friday night.

Referee Ashley Klein failed to stop play despite Keppie wobbling around on the field and crashing to the turf near the play-the-ball early in Manly's preliminary final loss to Souths.

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The front-rower suffered a heavy head knock while trying to complete a tackle on Mark Nicholls, but play was allowed to continue despite confronting scenes that followed.

Klein appeared to be in view of Keppie stumbling around and struggling to stay on his feet, but didn't call time off - much to the disbelief of Hasler.

Keppie was visibly groggy for the next two tackles until the game was stopped to examine a potential try.

The prop was then taken from the field and ruled out for the remainder of the game.

It came after a week of controversy that saw a Penrith trainer suspended for stopping last week's semi-final in the dying minutes to attend to Mitch Kenny's ankle injury.

Klein came under pressure for calling time off as the trainer ran onto the field last week, allowing Penrith to reset their defensive line with the Eels on the attack.

And while Friday night's call to play on around Keppie didn't impact the result, Hasler said the NRL needs to find a happy medium.

Asked if last week's incident had spooked officials, Hasler said: "They were on a hiding to nothing really, weren't they?

"Last week, it probably cost a side a semi-final spot, or that's what Parramatta were saying.

"It's got to be looked at during the off-season. I understand both sides of the argument. There's a fine line.

"They have to look at play not being disrupted and being advantageous to the attacking side, but also there's a duty of care to players."

Sean Keppie, pictured here in action for Manly against South Sydney.
Sean Keppie in action for Manly against South Sydney. (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

NRL world up in arms over 'disgraceful' scenes

Hasler suggested having the orange shirt trainer in contact with a doctor on the sideline to get immediate attention to players, rather than having to wait for an on-field assessment to stop a game.

"Because if you leave a player lying there and play on, who knows what that player is suffering at that time? It's a fine line," he said.

"I dare say if he would have stopped play there would have been the same gripe. It's something they probably need to look at."

Commentators and fans were also gobsmacked that play wasn't stopped.

“I thought the game was going to be stopped there,” Greg Alexander said on Fox League.

“I thought the referee was looking at him.”

Willie Mason tweeted: “Why can’t the refs just get it right with the timing of stopping the game cos of injury!

“It honestly can’t be that hard. Keppie is stumbling right in the ruck and you don’t stop it but you’ll stop it when the player is 30 metres away.”

Journalist Peter van Onselen labelled it an "utter disgrace".

“That referee should never referee finals again after letting that play go on after the Manly player was knocked out almost cold,” he tweeted.

“What an utter disgrace! No concern at all for player safety. It happened RIGHT in front of him. Totally unprofessional.”

with AAP

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