'It's a joke': NRL fans outraged over fresh concussion 'disgrace'

·5-min read
Christian Welch is pictured sitting on the sideline after failing an HIA test.
Christian Welch was allowed to stay on for several minutes despite later failing an HIA test for concussion. Pic: Fox Sports

Rugby League fans have been left outraged over another concussion controversy in Saturday's preliminary final between the Melbourne Storm and Penrith Panthers.

In a chaotic first half at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, the Storm lost both Christian Welch and Brandon Smith, with the forwards failing their head injury assessments (HIAs).

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However, it was the incident involving Welch that left commentators and fans particularly aggrieved, with the Melbourne prop allowed to stay on the field after the game had been stopped.

Penrith were on the attack and had broken up field when referee Gerard Sutton stopped play so Welch could be attended to.

The big Storm forward was looking groggy after a tackle involving Dylan Edwards, but was allowed to continue playing after a brief check-up from a Melbourne trainer.

“You can’t stop the play and the player is allowed to remain on the field. If play is stopped it has to be so significant the player has to leave the field," Fox Sports commentator Michael Ennis said.

“You can hear Sutton say he has to go to the trainer.”

League great Gordon Tallis added: “He has to leave the field.

“That’s what the rules should be if you stop the game at the moment, Welch has to leave the field.”

Penrith scored a short time after the incident with Stephen Crichton crossing in the corner for the only try of the first half.

A short time later Welch did leave the field for an HIA test, with news eventually filtering through that he'd failed it and would take no further part in the match.

Fans were left outraged on social media, with many questioning how Welch was allowed to stay on the field for as long as he was, before finally being sent for a check.

Manly coach questions concussion stoppages

A similar controversy erupted in Friday night's first preliminary final between the Rabbitohs and Sea Eagles.

South Sydney became the first team to qualify for the grand final courtesy of a 36-16 win over Manly at Suncorp Stadium.

However, there was uproar after Manly's Sean Keppie suffered an apparent concussion and the game was allowed to continue while he stumbled across the field.

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 loss to Souths.

Seen here, Manly's Sean Keppie lies on the floor after a head injury against the Rabbbitohs.
Play wasn't stopped despite Sean Keppie collapsing near the play-the-ball. Image: Fox Sports

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.

Sea Eagles coach Des Hasler said it was further evidence that a review of stoppages in the game were necessary in the off-season.

"Last week, it probably cost a side a semi-final spot, or that's what Parramatta were saying," Hasler said in reference to a controversial incident involving Penrith's trainer against the Eels.

"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."

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."

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