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Will Pucovski has given Australian sport its first major concussion test case

Roar Rookie
4th March, 2024
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Roar Rookie
4th March, 2024
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Sport in Australia now has its first real concussion test on its hands in the brave new world of head injuries protection.

It is a test that has to be passed to save further pain down the track.

The sickening footage of precocious batting talent Will Pucovski being hit in the head again by a bouncer – this time by Riley Meredith for Victoria in their Sheffield Shield match against Tasmania in Hobart on Sunday – now becomes this test.

With his sadly lengthy history of head knocks added to by this latest blow, Pucovski unwittingly will now be a walking, talking example for those that want to take (an understandably) hard line on concussions for players while still playing in the “prime” of their careers.

It will become more than just a highly likely increased push by the Australian Sports Commission for their recent concussion recommendation to the Federal Government (of a 21-day break for any head knock in any sport played at any level in this country).

The Pucovski file will now be used – rightly or wrongly – as a contemporary case for concussion reform to be used on current players.

Will Pucovski is checked after being struck on the helmet by Riley Meredith.

Will Pucovski is checked after being struck on the helmet by Riley Meredith. (Photo by Steve Bell/Getty Images)

This shift will be distinct from the growing number of cases of older retired players across contact sports given media coverage from long term head injuries such as CTE and dementia in recent years.

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Passions will be high on both sides of the debate – between those who want to “save players from themselves”, and those of the “old school” who believe that it is tough to carry on through adversity to glory.
Both sides will claim the moral high ground.

Administrators and politicians have a mixed track record – to be kind – in reading the room on various issues.

Yet they will somehow have to sift through the fact from the emotion and come up with an across the board policy when the dust settles from this debate.

Then, you throw in the angles around dollars.

First, the corporate angle – that there are big dollars at stake in keeping players on the field in major professional and semi-professional sports in Australia regardless of any health factors.

Then you have the growing mindset of launching class actions against anyone and everyone who has “not taken responsibility” for something that was not considered or thought of in any workspace or sports field 5, 10, 15, 25 or 35 years ago.

This mindset – while necessary in some cases outside of sport – has now been almost hijacked by ambulance chasing lawyers trying to get big bucks for years allegedly lost from the quality of lives in an attempt to make a living for themselves.

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Will Pucovski

Will Pucovski (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

It is this mindset that is keeping the Peter V’Landys’, Andrew Abdos, Gillon McLachlans and Andrew Dillons of the world awake at night – petrified of possible/probable multi million dollar actions that may come their way – or in the way of their successors – in years and decades to come.

Good luck being an administrator or a politician trying to sort this out into such a policy that the majority of those in the sports loop – fans, players, coaches, and parents of kids wanting to play sport – will agree to or be happy with.

However, Australian Sport cannot put this debate away under the carpet any longer. Pucovski’s latest blow should ensure that this debate starts now.

If somehow such a policy across sports can be implemented, that will allow Australians to genuinely say that they are not only amongst the best in the world punching above their weight on the field, but as leading the way above their weight off it.

Time and history will judge what happens from here.

As for Will Pucovski, he now has to make the best decision for himself and attempt the almost impossible task of divorcing himself from the white noise that will now surround his playing future.

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His self belief – bordering on stubborn defiance – that he can overcome any obstacle put in front of him has allowed him to make comeback after comeback from head knock after head knock over the last five years.

This self belief has no doubt been fed by the clear push from those around him – as well as from the Cricket Australia hierarchy, the Australian sports media and even fans, dare it be said – that he was the “next big thing” in Australian cricket and Australian batting. Picked out from an early age in under-age carnivals as that precocious batting talent.

In trying to fulfill this talent to another baggy green test cap, Pucovski may want to draw on this self belief and give one last glorious comeback a crack next summer after recovering from this recent blow.

However, the word “was” in that next big thing statement may now be Pucovski’s most appropriate description.

His history of concussions, added to by this latest blow, strongly suggest that he may now have to give up playing cricket now for his own health.

He has performed OK in front of the camera when given opportunities during Channel 7’s big Bash coverage off and on while he has been on the sidelines.

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Maybe this is his best short term – or even medium to long term – move around the sport he clearly loves so dearly.

The tragic passing of Phillip Hughes will reach its 10th anniversary this coming November. No doubt his demise will be thrown in Pucovski’s direction while he considers his future.

Either way, one can only hope he is allowed to make that call – what ever it is – quietly without being dragged into the debate. At least initially.

His opinions and thoughts on sports concussions will also inevitably be attempted in time to be used by both sides of the concussion debate that will now take off.

Pucovski will need to be careful he does not step on any minefields in coming up with a solution on both choosing his view on this debate, as well as his own personal future.

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Like those trying to sort out the concussion debate – good luck in making those calls, Will.
For your sake.

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