Former State of Origin winger James McManus’s legal action against Newcastle centres on claims that his former club breached its duty of care to him in a series of incidents from 2012 to his concussion-enforced retirement in 2015, including one episode in which he alleges he was directed to continue playing until the end of a semi-final against the Bulldogs.
BATTERED: Former NSW Origin winger James McManus is suing the Knights for their handling over concussions he suffered during his career. Picture: Getty Images
McManus will makeclaims against both the current Knights entity, owned by the NRL,and the previous incarnation of the club owned until 2014 by nowbankrupt mining magnate Nathan Tinkler when his case beginsin the Supreme Court on March 17.
The 31-year-old is allegingthe club was negligent in the way in which it responded to a repetitive series of concussions by allowing him to continue playing, encouraging him to continue playing, not keeping him away from the game for long enough periods between concussions,and by having unqualified people making on-field decisions over whether he should be brought to the sideline after a head knock or not.
Among the list of “incidents” McManus is citingis from the Knights’ round-one match against the Warriors in 2015 when he returned to the field after being sidelined with what at the time was reported as a suspected broken nose. He came back on, playing68 minutes of the game.
He is also claiming he was told to play out a semi-final against Canterbury in 2013 after copping a head knock.
He has cited matches as far back as a round-19 game in 2012 against Manly in his claims against Newcastle, as well as thecircumstances that followed a clash of heads at training in March 2015 with teammate Chanel Mata’utia. McManus sat out the Knights’ next game but returned the following week and is understood to beclaiming hesustained more head knocks in games that followed.
McManus, who has been diagnosed with signs of frontal lobe brain damage,played the final game of his career in round 20 of that of that season on July 25, 2015 against Souths.
Newcastle chairmanBrian McGuigan has alreadystronglydenied any negligence by the Knightsand Newcastle said in a statement on Monday that the club would respond “when the time is appropriate.”
The law firm McManus has engaged, Slater and Gordon, released a statement on Monday quoting their client.
“I have great respect for the Newcastle Knights and I am very honoured to have played in the red and blue for the better part of the last decade,” McManus said.
“My health is my No.1 priority and I have been closely managing the injuries that prompted my retirement from professional rugby league last year.
“This is not a situation I ever wanted to be in and I’m working closely with my legal team at Slater and Gordon and the club to resolve the matter and try to ensure no other player, at any other club, on any level of sport, falls through the cracks in the same way again.”
The NRL has made a minor change to its concussion protocols for this season.The lengthof time it takes for a player to leave the ground if they are forced off with due to a head knock will along with the mandatory sideline concussion assessment also be a factor in whether they are allowed back on.
There have been concerns that the threat of players heading to the courts could prompt NRL medicos to fear remaining involved in the game but former Wests Tigers club doctor Don Kuah downplayed the prospect of thatscenario on Monday.
“Four or fiveyears ago therewere probablymore risks and deterrentsfor doctorslike (former Sydney Roosters and NSW Origin medico)John Orchardand myself, who are no longer lookingafteran NRLside,” said Kuah, who is chair of the NRL’s medical advisory panel.
“But I think the NRLhas really done a good job in terms of tightening up all these issues and having a duty of care to players and to medical staff.”