QUANDARY: Sione Mata’utia.
THE Newcastle Knights have played it safe and restedSione Mata’utia from Friday’s clash withCanberra at GIO Stadium after his third concussion incident of the season.
Knights coach Nathan Brown was weighing up on Tuesday morning whether to include Mata’utia, but when the 21-man squad was named hours later, the co-captain was a notable omission. It will be the first game he has missed this season.
Mata’utiawas replaced in the first half of Saturday’s 44-21 loss to Melbourne for a head-injury assessment and did not return. He was involved in similarepisodes against South Sydney in round three and Cronulla in round five.
Mata’utia did not join his teammates during Tuesday’s ball-work session but Brown said he had passed all his tests so far.
“Everything suggests from a health perspective, everything is fineto play,’’ Brown said.
“Is it the right thing in these days?
“I don’t think anyone knows with the concussion, that deeply.
“We’ll just be guided by the experts and doctors and if they say he’s fine to play, we’ll sit down and talk to Sione.
“If they say he’s not fine to play, he’ll be automatically ruled out.”
Brown said the 21-year-old had suffered no lingering ill-effects after his incident on Saturday.
“The one he got on the weekend, he came in the next morning and was as good as gold,’’ Brown said.
“If he had any headaches the next day, or anything wrong the next day, he would have been automatically ruled out.
“I rang him up, he was as good as gold. He did a light bike thing, which is part of the protocol, and he went and played golf.’’
Nonetheless, given that Mata’utia has suffered five concussions in the space of 18 months, Brown admitted: “I’d be lying if I said we weren’t concerned about it.”
The Knightshave access to two world-renowned neurologists, Professor Chris Levi and Dr Andrew Gardner, and Brown said the club liaised with the latter on Monday.
“We spoke to Andrew Gardner,’’ he said.
“Chris Levi is away. Those two guys are leading the field in the world.
“It certainly is something we have to check out, not only from Sione’s well-being, but also from the club’s point of view as well.
“Sione’s a player that we’dhere like here long term, and we don’t want to keep losing him during games as well.”
Brown said that while he was concerned about Mata’utia’s welfare, the back-rower showed no outward signs that he was bothered.
“He doesn’t let on, when I’ve spoken to him about it,’’ Brown said.
“The way he plays suggests he doesn’t worry about it.
“But it’s certainly something that we have to look at, and certainly something Sione needs to look at, because of the long term and what they say may or may not happen.”
The NRL has tightened its concussion protocols in recent seasons, but the availability of players is largely in the hands of clubs and their medical advisors.
Brown agreed that if players sufferedserious concussions, there should perhaps be a mandatory stand-down period, enforced by the governing body.
But he added:“If it’s a minor bump, do people need to be ruled out?
“I’m not so sure.’’
In Mata’utia’s absence, Jamie Buhrer will switch from hooker to second row on Friday night.