It’s that time of year again when we Cockroach supporters start looking for reasons – any reasons – to support our team against those Canetoads from north of the border!

Any sign, omen, auspice, tealeaf reader, chicken entrails interpreter or even a card picking octopus will do as long as it confirms our deepest desire that this year, the winner of the Rugby League State Of Origin is going to be US:  New South Wales!  For some years now, we on the Mid-north Coast, have had a trump card up our sleeve as the  Coackroach  captain was our own Boyd Cordner and he didn’t let us down.  Now however, Boyd has been forced into retirement because he’s taken a few too many hits to the head throughout his career and rightly so, he’s worried about the long-term consequences. Oh, woe is us, we cried!

But no, there was no reason to cry or fear. The first game rolled around and there I sat in front of the large screen TV with all the essentials FETHed*:  coldies in an esky beside my left hand, freshly popped popcorn in a bowl beside my right hand and headphones** tuned in.  Into the breach stepped a team that had firepower to burn with Latrell Mitchell (also a local lad) and Tom Trbojevic.  To cut a long story short (because if you’re reading this you’ll know who won) it was one-way traffic and the final score (50-6) flattered the  Canetoads.

The first game by the way, was supposed to be held at  The G  in Melbourne but because the Victorians are having what appears to be a love affair with COVID 19 (they keep going back to it so what are we supposed to think?) so it was moved to Townsville.  By the time you read this the second game will have been played (in Brisbane) and if the octopus can do it again we’ll head to Sydney for Origin III two up.  Ah, life can be good occasionally.

There has of course, been a lot of talk about the need for players to wear helmets because they (that nebulous group of “experts” that never seem to have a name or qualifications stated) say that helmets (as are worn in American football) would stop this brain trauma!  What a load of codswallop!  A player is concussed by the rapid stopping of their head and this will happen during a tackle when the body is stopped rapidly or the player’s head hits another body or the ground.  The brain is not lashed securely within the skull as say, a car is tied down on the back of a trailer.  If the trailer comes to a violent stop, generally speaking, the car will stay put because of the structure of the trailer and the ropes holding the car in place, absorb the stress.  The brain floats within the skull and if the skull’s momentum (such as when a player is running hard) is stopped abruptly the brain (for a split second) continues in the direction it was going, surging towards the inside of the skull and then hits it.  It doesn’t travel far but it does travel and the more violent the stop, the greater is the potential for damage.  The more times the brain is concussed then the greater are the chances that eventually this trauma is going to push towards permanent injury.  The biggest problem currently, is doctors can’t see the damage like they can see a broken arm.  They know what’s happening but the only real test for the amount of damage that has occurred is during an autopsy and that’s a bit late to manage the injury for a player.

You don’t have to be a genius (and I’m certainly not) to understand a helmet is not going to stop the surge of the brain inside the skull if the player’s head is violently and suddenly stopped be it in a tackle or when their head hits the ground.  You’ll have to do a power of talking to convince me that a helmet is going to do little more than stop a player suffer the odd scratch.

That’s why there is the current push to wipe out the high tackles in the ARL.  If they don’t get out in front of this issue (and there is plenty of evidence to suggest they’re already late and should have begun this process years ago) there will be law suits flying around like confetti at a Greek wedding!  Lawyers just love to get involved in this sort of thing and sometimes they might be doing it for all the right reasons – not just money!

So the next time you watch an ARL game and see a player  with a bit of a wobbly boot on  be concerned because they’ve just been concussed and if they don’t pass the HIA test the League is insisting they’re out for at least 10 days to let their brain recover.  Multiple concussions means you and I will never see a player like Boyd Cordner grace an ARL field again and that’s got to be a tragedy.

Talk at you next month,

 The Hillside Critic

*:  Falls Easily THand.  And you thought you’d never learn anything while reading this rant.

**:  The Child Bride doesn’t like to hear the dribblers shouting their commentary but will sit and watch the game so I listen on my headphones.

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