I respect Gus, but he’s stuck in the past when it comes to dealing with concussions in the NRL

Look, I don’t want to be unkind about Phil Gould, honest. But is he barking mad? Here was Gould on the show 100% Footy on Channel Nine (which is owned by Nine Entertainment Co, which also owns this masthead) on the subject of Newcastle fullback Kalyn Ponga being pulled from the field during the match against the Warriors with a suspected concussion, by the independent doctor.

“I think the doctor in the bunker,” Gould said, “is the greatest abomination perpetrated on our game in history.”

(Exactly! What is WRONG with NRL CEO Andrew Abdo and his insistence that the game must react to the threat of the legal obliteration that will follow if they are seen to ignore their duty of care to the players. Some would say that “the greatest abomination of all time” should be made of sterner stuff than having a medical expert focused only on the welfare of the players, but go on, Phil. )

“It’s confusing for players.”

(Most of us would be momentarily confused, Phil, to have 120kg behemoths crash into us at full speed. The point is to get them off the field. And what a great thing when the person making the decision can do so without fear or favour, for the first time in the game’s history.)

Kalyn Ponga has a history of concussions with one head knock ending his 2022 season early.Credit:Getty

“Not every bump to the head is a concussion, not every concussion is life-threatening.”

(No one said either thing.)

“It’s total overkill and I don’t know how players and coaches are going to contend with this.”

(Overkill? The greatest danger is that it is too little, too late, but we’ll see. In the face of what is both an existential threat and a moral imperative, it is the game finally doing what it simply must, to avoid being wiped out. Say, Phil, have you seen the class actions taken against the NFL, England Rugby, FIFA, the AFL. Do you think the NRL should wait till the class action coming their way gets even bigger, or just ignore it? Serious question.)

Phil Gould has plenty to say about Ponga being pulled from the field against the Warriors with a suspected concussion, by the independent doctor.Credit:Getty

“[The NRL] is giving way to media and doctors and lawyers and all of this misinformation.”

(What misinformation, Phil? If you have more medical knowledge than the doctors and more legal knowledge than the lawyers, let’s hear it. Put up, or shut up. I repeat: what misinformation, Phil? Can you spell it out?)

“It’s like arguing with people on climate change. It’s the same thing.”

(It is a bit, isn’t Phil? How ludicrous is it? You have the UN, NASA, the CSIRO and every reputable environmental agency on one end of the see-saw, and on the other end you have people who say “Well, I don’t care, I just think it’s a sham.” And we’re meant to take them seriously?)

“It’s all about litigation, it’s all about litigation, that’s what it’s about … They’re worried about this tsunami of class action which has been threatening for ages but which never comes, and if it did, I say take them on.”

(And now after testimony from all the professors, actuarial experts and concussion specialists for the prosecution, let’s go to our expert witness for the defence, Phil Gould. “It’s all rubbish.” Got anything else, Phil?)

Enough already. As a league commentator, I generally enjoy Gould’s insights, and his experience in so many parts of league means he really does have valuable insights. But with this carry on he does himself, the administrators, the game itself and, most particularly, the players a serious disservice.

I am not saying that Phil has turned into the Rex Mossop of his generation, perpetually 20 years off the pace. I am saying that if the NRL did what you say, Phil, they would be signing their own death warrant.

Thank you, and good day.

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