Independent doctor here to stay: NRL chief Abdo

NRL chief executive Andrew Abdo says the independent doctor in the bunker is here to stay, insisting the game has it right when it comes to identifying possible on-field concussions.

Debate has raged following Kalyn Ponga's removal from the field in Newcastle's 20-12 loss to the Warriors on Friday night with the game on the line, after he slid into Addin Fonua-Blake's hips. Ponga said he was fine and did not need to be checked.

Veteran coaches Wayne Bennett and Ricky Stuart have since called for the independent doctor to be scrapped.

Canberra fullback Sebastian Kris and Canterbury winger Jacob Kiraz also appeared unhappy when asked to leave the field in the opening round.

Abdo would not comment on specific incidents or coaches' calls, with all head injuries reviewed by the game's chief medical officer after the round.

But he said there was no way the game would be rolling back its management of concussions by taking away the independent doctor in the bunker.

"We're not going to take a backward step on player safety," Abdo told AAP.

"We have a responsibility to monitor all head injury events during matches. The club doctors do it on the field, the independent doctor does it from the bunker.

"There is never a convenient time for a player to be removed from the field to be checked.

"But player safety and thinking about the long-term wellbeing of the player is what comes first."

Abdo also stressed that clubs had not been left out of the process, with team medicos on the sideline holding as much power as the independent doctor to spot indicators of concussions and remove players for assessment.

He also argued that by having the doctor in the bunker, the NRL merely had extra eyes on each player with instant access to replays from different angles.

"There are a team of people looking for when a player needs to be assessed," Abdo said.

"They will make calls based on certain things.

"It's not a case of whether or not a player feels like they are fine. It's a case of whether or not our policy dictates they need to be assessed."

Abdo admitted he had become frustrated by commentary around concussions this weekend, and denied suggestions the game had become more cautious this year.

He said players were still being monitored for the same indicators after head knocks as last year, with decisions ranging from on-field checks, 15-minute off-field assessments and immediate removal from the match.

"The policy hasn't changed and it has been applied the way it always is," Abdo said.

"Of course there are sometimes areas of judgement, and no two matters are identical. They will be reviewed, and it's an ongoing process of learning.

"It's overseen by CMO Dr Sharron Flahive, and she is in contact with the review process, the club doctor and independent doctors."

Abdo was also confident the process of having club doctors carry out on-field assessments was the right one, after Andrew Johns called for independent doctors to step in at that point.

"These are all highly trained people and they are all carrying the wellbeing of the player at their core," Abdo said.

"A lot of people have made comment that this is a trust issue. This is not a trust issue."