Friday On My Mind: Short on Troops

I guess you never really take notice of a problem until it affects you directly. In this instance I am talking about the concussion rule. While the implementation of the new rule is something I fully support, I believe it is putting teams at a disadvantage and needs to be tinkered with. Now player safety has to be the games highest priority and I applaud the measures that the NRL has brought in over the last few years, while the absence of shoulder charges and fights was something I wasn't happy about at the start, I have since come around and realise that there place in the game looks to have gone. The devastating injury to Alex McKinnon has highlighted that footy is just a game and player safety is a much greater issue.

Even though the concussion rule is one of the positive measures that have been introduced to the modern game, something has to change before it costs a team two premiership points. On Friday night I sat down to watch my Sea Eagles seek revenge for last years grand final defeat. A quarter of the game in and it was evident that it was going to be a grind from start to finish. It was at this point that Glenn Stewart was hit in an illegal tackle and knocked out. He failed a concussion test and didn't return to the field. Glenn is a key attacking threat on Manly's right side along with DCE and Lyon, no disrespect to Buhrer but he doesn't provide the same attacking spark that Stewart does. This incident didn't go on to affect the end result but it well could have.

Not only does a concussion take a potential marquee player out of the match but it also leaves a team with only three on the bench while the opposition has a full complement. If it is accidental then i guess it is just bad luck but in the cases of foul play there should be a way to appease the fouled team. Waerea-Hargreaves will miss this weekends match due to suspension but that doesn't help Manly at all.

While I don't claim to have the perfect solution I believe that there are two methods that either implemented together or on their own would fix this mess. One is bringing in five or ten minute sin bins for foul play. An incident of foul play may not be worthy of a send off but it could well deserve a short stint on the sideline. The other is allowing teams to have an 18th and 19th man that can come on to the bench in the case of a concussion (or any injury that is the result of foul play). These two players (one back and one forward) would ensure the contest remains as even as possible. Taking nothing away from the Tigers win over the Rabbitohs in round three but the result may well of been different if G.I played more than five minutes. Imagine if this happened to Souths in a grand final, the match would be over before it even started. At least with this option an outside back could come on to the field as 18th man. This stops teams having a backrower shift into the centres and be forced to defend out of position against a much faster opponent. These emergency reserve players could come from the NSW cup or under 20′s that played before hand.

Whether this rule applies to any acts of foul play or to just concussion specifically I don't know. What I do know is that something has to change before players start taking advantage of it (we have already seen Wade Graham suggest an opponent needed to be taken off to do a concussion test). The amount of players not returning from concussions this year has been much higher then expected. Now the NRL must tinker with the rule to keep the game both as safe as possible and as fair as possible.

Twitter: @louismcintyre