A Sydney lawyer believes he can successfully sue the NRL on behalf of former players who suffered brain injuries from concussions, and has secured private funding to back legal action against the code, comparing potential litigation to the damaging lawsuit filed in the United States by thousands of ex-NFL players.
Concussion has been a hot topic for league authorities over the past year, following their crackdown on the shoulder charge and the punch, by introducing strict new regulations governing the treatment of players with head knocks and fining clubs who transgress. The damage may already have been done when it comes to the deeds of the past, however, and the result could pan out to be financially disastrous for League Central.
George Draca, principal at Norwest Lawyers, says he is ready to act for ex-footballers who have suffered long-lasting effects from head knocks during their careers.
“I think that there will be a number of players out there given the high impact and collision nature of the sport, that a lot of players will soon realise that they’re not as good mentally as what they used to be. And that more than likely will be as a result of what happened to them while they were playing contact athletic sport,” Draca said.
“Potentially, if it’s proven, and it needs to be proven, that players were damaged as a result of the nature of the sport and if the clubs knew or ought to have known that this was a potential hazard or risk then it could be hugely damaging both from a social context but also from a financial perspective.”
Draca is not yet representing any players but says he has “a desire to act for any player who may have sustained a potential serious injury”. He claims to also have leading neurosurgeons ready to assess players before any case is launched and to have secured private funding.
There are no shortage of ex-players who would fit the bill. Former NSW and Australian front-rower Ian Roberts, for example, admitted in a gripping television interview in March that he had been found to have brain damage, and former North Queensland player Shaun Valentine has spoken repeatedly about the dizzy spells and memory loss that have plagued his life after a series of head knocks in 2000.
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