Former NRL player Clint Greenshields (right) alongside Grafton Ghosts captain coach and good friend Danny Wicks.
Former NRL player Clint Greenshields (right) alongside Grafton Ghosts captain coach and good friend Danny Wicks. Brad Greenshields

GREENSHIELDS: Group needs to make welfare a priority

RUGBY LEAGUE: Country Rugby League and Group 2 need to make player welfare a priority, otherwise the game will cease in our local area.

As I watched one of my good mates unconscious on the ground after a head clash on Sunday I asked myself with a heavy heart, "Why am I playing this game?"

I came back to the bush enjoy some quality time with some friends playing footy and this is where we are at.

Rewind to the first local derby (April 9), one of our players was blindsided and had a seizure on the ground after the contact. The same player who tried to punch our player in that game is still playing in Group 2.

In Sunday's game I was intentionally hit with a closed fist, which put my teeth through my lip and took skin off my face.

I understand rugby league is a tough sport but after 200 professional games I have never seen anything like the lack of concern for player welfare in Group 2.

This needs to change now. The problem is easily solved.

If a player stands toe to toe with another player and throws a punch they get sent off. Both players are prepared for the punch so nine times out of 10 there is no major damage to players' bodies.

But when a player intentionally comes in and blindsides another player when they are not looking and unaware of the contact coming, that player needs to be sent off immediately.

When we step on the field our health and welfare is in the hands of the referee and touch judges.

Rugby league as a brand needs to do something about this now or lose players to other codes.

My two nephews were watching the game on Sunday. At 14 and 15 years old they both play rugby league and love the sport. They saw my face yesterday and asked me how I felt about the game.

How am I supposed to endorse this sport when this is the standard being set in our game?

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