The laws of the land apply to sport as well, writes Greg Cary.
It’s a pretty simple concept. Those who play sport understand the risks and accept them.
What they have no right to either expect or accept are assaults outside the laws of the game, any more than we do when we walk down the street.
That’s the way the law sees it as well and it’s time all involved understood this very basic fact.
Phil Gould, perhaps the game’s best analyst, recently said that, unlike in the United States, players would not take legal action related to head knocks. On this occasion Phil is way off the mark.
Players will not only take action in the courts but have already taken action.
The NFL has set aside some $800 million for players proven to have suffered long term damage.
Daryl Brohman, the late Steve Rogers, Dale Shearer and Jarred McCracken are just some who have successfully sued for illegal assaults on-field.
Brohman was entitled to run at Les Boyd without copping a deliberate elbow to the jaw and the spear tackle that ended McCracken’s career was deemed by the Judge not to be “… a normal incident in the course of the game”.
Significantly the Judge also said that the tackle was meant to injure.
It has been reported that Newcastle’s Alex McKinnon is considering his legal options having been left in a wheelchair following a lifting tackle against Melbourne Storm last year.
Some are criticising him, arguing that what happens on the field should stay on the field. Are they serious?
The tackler himself is a different kind of victim in all of this because the tackle he performed is but one of many we see every year and he clearly had no intention of causing serious injury.
But the possibility existed, administrators knew it and the law seems clear.
Greg Bird recently received yet another suspension for the same offence and you wonder how many he will commit before serious injury results.
And that’s the point. The League knows the danger of these tackles and has a responsibility to rid the game of them. They’re not doing enough.
The NRL and other sports can make no excuse of ignorance. Concussions are now understood for the serious injuries they are. Multiple concussions more so.
And, whilst it’s true that no player could take legal action based on an accidental knock which is a genuine part of the game, he could take legal action (and would win) if he was the victim of a deliberate attack to the head – or some other attack outside the rules.
A coach who encouraged such tactics would also be liable.
A hockey player accepts the possibility of an accidental knock with a hockey stick but not an attack with it.
This is where a greater level of responsibility is required from everyone involved in the game – all games, for that matter.
Too often commentators reflect fondly on a time when players punched each other in the head rather than simply pushed and shoved.
The NRL must make it clear to them – as they do the players – WHY this is no longer part of the game.
Firstly, because one punch can kill and, secondly, because it’s outside the rules and any injury related to such an action could cost those involved dearly. In all ways.
Some say this is just another sign of a politically correct world gone crazy. Wrong.
Profoundly, irresponsibly and stupidly wrong.
Instead, it’s a belated attempt to lend proper protection to athletes of all ages at all levels.
It is a reminder, as well, that those who play sport have a responsibility to play within the rules and that those who administer those rules need to do so rigorously in order to minimise the risk of serious injury.
It’s the least we can do.