Rugby league has always been evolving and now finds itself at one of its most important historical moments. The Grand Final crystallised some of the issues that the game will continue to grapple with over the next few years.
The first-tackle injury to Sam Burgess set the scene for one of sports most courageous performances and one of League’s most brutal contests. As compelling as it was to watch, officials will need to think long and hard about where the game is going.
At a time when the potential (and reality) of serious injury has become a priority Sam was left to make the choice about staying or leaving when, by his own admission, he was concussed and in no position to make an informed decision.
That he played so brilliantly seems to have obscured the reality that the NRL has been extremely tough all year on clubs who allowed players to continue when concussed. Sam was not only concussed but needed four plates in his smashed face.
I’m not arguing that Sam should’ve been dragged off (good luck with that!) but that there is a massive inconsistency at work.
This is all in the context of a genuine desire to limit the possibilities of long term damage to players and the attempt to define the responsibilities of administrators, coaches and players.
Players are getting bigger and faster and the replacement rules are allowing them to play longer without succumbing to fatigue.
Refereeing and the use of technological “aids” will also need to be confronted. Happily the GF wasn’t defined by refs decisions but the season has been. The frustration level of players has been obvious and fans turned off in large numbers throughout the year.
These are just a couple of the issues confronting the game but, for now, Souths and Canterbury provided a Grand Final that will linger longer in the memory than most. Our memories, that is — not Sam’..