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'If the NRL are serious about concussions, where does this sit?' Kevvie fires up after May escapes ban for Walsh's fracture

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22nd March, 2024
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Brisbane’s heavy injury toll has worsened with Reece Walsh set to be sidelined for at least a month after scans showed a facial fracture from his sickening blow against Penrith.

Panthers centre Taylan May avoided charge for his head clash with Walsh, which ruled the Broncos superstar out of the game in just the fourth minute. But the news was not so good for Brisbane.

Walsh was rushed for scans on Thursday night after the 34-12 loss, and they have since shown a facial fracture.

Kevin Walters took aim at the NRL, questioning how no charges could be forthcoming. “I’m a bit confused about the rules you know, where’s the duty of care for our players?” said the Broncos coach.

“Reece is going to miss four-to-six weeks. There was contact to the head, which is duty of care.  If the NRL are serious about concussions and protecting players, where does this sit with that? 

“Where does it sit with that, NRL?”

But match review committee chairman Luke Patten said it was evident May had not been careless or reckless.

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“In the lead-up to impact, May plants both feet with both arms down by his side in an attempt to make a body tackle,” Patten said. “He does not lead with his shoulder or head unlike other previous incidents.

“Once the ball is passed by player Walsh, both players react to the imminent contact, resulting in both players leaving the ground and accidentally clashing heads. The MRC does not see player May rotate his shoulder or raise his arms in an attempt to go through with the tackle.”

Walters added that there was insufficient incentive for teams not to cause such injuries with the current lack of protection. In the Super League, May would have been at least sin-binned, if not sent off, and certianly banned.

“I’m certainly not a sore loser,” he said.

“But what I am very strong on is the protection of our players. If this is let go, next time Reece Walsh comes back on the field what are they going to do again?

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“If this is let to go, the next time Reece Walsh comes back on the field, what are they going to do again, exactly the same thing …(just say) ‘Sorry’.

“It was contact to the head, mate. Something should have happened (to May) shouldn’t it? We now have Reece Walsh gone for six weeks.

“I will speak to the right people (at the NRL) There’s a few things I’m not happy about last night, but we will speak through the right channels and go from there.

“If I speak publicly about it, it looks like I’m a sore loser which I’m certainly not, but what I am strong on is the protection of our players.

“I think our administrators have been really good, but the duty of care must be first and foremost. I have my opinions and the NRL won’t bother too much about what I think, it’s what they think.”

Walsh’s recovery was further compounded by the news that he could not board a plane with his injury, forcing a long bus ride back to Queensland.

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“As a result, he cannot fly home and is being driven back up to Brisbane today (on a bus) by our staff,” Broncos high performance boss Dave Ballard said.

“We will be able to determine how much footy Reece will miss once the injury settles down and after we consult a specialist in coming days.”

Walsh’s injury leaves Brisbane without their three most influential players ahead of next Friday’s clash with North Queensland.

Reece Walsh (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Reece Walsh (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)

Adam Reynolds will not return until at least round five against Melbourne, while a knee problem has also sidelined Payne Haas for the next month.

Coach Walters also admitted on Thursday night he had to rethink his interchange bench, after Walsh’s injury left the Broncos exposed on the edges.

Second-rower Brendan Piakura was forced to defend at left centre and prop Fletcher Baker on an edge, with Selwyn Cobbo playing fullback in place of Walsh.

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That allowed Cleary to pick the visitor’s defence apart with ease, with three first-half tries coming down that side.

“We had Tristan Sailor parked as 18th man, but he couldn’t come into the game. So we won’t be doing that again,” Walters said.

“We have to (have someone like Sailor on the bench), because if you lose some of those outside backs, you need specialists.

“Me, as a coach, I have to pick the right people on our bench to make sure we cover everything. I take a bit of the blame there.”

Penrith coach Ivan Cleary was adamant that the contact was simply accidental, with his view backed up by the match review committee.

“No-one wants to see the best players go off, but I just saw it as an accident,” Cleary said.

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“I thought he was trying to pull out of the tackle, he was directly upright, which is not how you tackle.

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“If he had of bent down, he probably would have hit him in the head with his shoulder.

“Reece Walsh moves pretty fast, these things happen. I’m not too concerned about that.”

with AAP

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