'Can't think of things': Rugby league legend's devastating diagnosis

·4-min read
Rugby league great Steve Mortimer (right) is seen here with QLD legend Wally Lewis.
Rugby league great Steve Mortimer (right) has revealed that he's suffering from dementia. Pic: Getty

Rugby League legend Steve Mortimer says his own experiences with head knocks, and his own health diagnosis should serve as a warning to players as debate rages about the NRL's controversial crack down on dangerous contact.

Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) chairman Peter V'landys has made no apologies about the implementation of the tough new guidelines in the sport, after insisting that tackling concussion is one of the most pressing issues facing the code.

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Former NSW and Kangaroos halfback Mortimer has added weight to that view from V'landys after revealing that he's suffering from dementia.

The ARLC chairman has been under fire from various quarters with regards to the crackdown on high contact, with players angry they weren't better consulted before the drastic changes to the laws were introduced.

However, Mortimer agrees that the issue of head knocks is of paramount importance and has warned the players to take the issue seriously before it's potentially too late.

“When we were playing it was OK,” Mortimer told Channel 10.

“Playing grand finals or State of Origins, or playing for your country, it’s great. You don’t think about it. But now that we’re sitting down and having a talk about it, it gives you a chance to have a real good think about where my brain is going.”

The Canterbury great says he was diagnosed with dementia in March and revealed that he suffered three serious concussions during his playing days that included 272 first grade games for the Bulldogs.

Pictured here, former NSW Blues captain Steve Mortimer.
Former NSW Blues captain Steve Mortimer is positive his footy career contributed to his health condition. Pic: Getty

"I can’t think of things,” Mortimer said.

"I used to be able to talk better on TV. I go on thinking, ‘Ahh, Ahh’ … and forgetting a person’s name.

"I think it has a lot to do with … look it doesn’t matter.”

When pressed on whether he thought head knocks during his playing days contributed to his current condition, Mortimer replied: “Absolutely. Absolutely.”

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The NRL's crackdown on contact with the head and neck has been a divisive topic since it was implemented in Magic Round, just over a fortnight ago.

While many agree that protecting the players and mitigating dangerous contact with the head is crucially important, the inconsistencies around how it's being policed are leaving many fans incensed.

Veteran league journalist Phil Rothfield told NRL 360 on Monday night that he's worried referees will "ruin" the State of Origin series unless the inconsistencies are addressed.

V'landys defends controversial crackdown

Rugby League Players Association general president Daly Cherry-Evans on Monday also demanded V'landys listen to the players on key issues.

Crucially, the Queensland and Manly captain questioned why players weren't consulted before the crackdown began during Magic Round.

But V'landys claimed he was so alarmed by the rise in head shots - which included up to seven-times more charges than in 2017 - that there was little time to consult players.

"Naturally I respect what Daly Cherry-Evans says ... you can always do things better in hindsight," V'landys told AAP.

"But for me it was an urgent matter that needed addressing.

"It was our strategy as a commission since February. Everyone knew we would be addressing the head injury matter.

"When it's a safety matter I don't know why anyone wouldn't welcome that someone is looking at the safety of (the players)."

V'landys also claimed that his door had been left open for senior players since meeting with RLPA chief executive Clint Newton after Magic Round.

He says that invitation to meet wasn't accepted.

It's understood the players' union are waiting to collate a list of agenda items before representatives meet, to ensure the chance is given for direct answers.

with AAP

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