Rugby league is set to be rocked by the sport’s first concussion class action after lawyers acting for former English, Welsh and Scottish players – including Super League legend Bobbie Goulding – announced their intention to sue in a case that will have huge ramifications for the NRL.
Rylands Legal is representing 50 former footballers in a negligence suit against the Rugby Football League (the RFL), the governing body for the Super League in England. It’s alleged the RFL failed in its duty of care to protect the plaintiffs from the risks associated with concussions and sub-concussions.
It is the same legal firm which is representing 175 former rugby union players in a separate concussion lawsuit. Goulding, former Wales international Michael Edwards and Scotland international Jason Roach are part of a test group of 10 players, all under the age of 60, bringing the legal action. However, their lawyer, Richard Boardman of Rylands Legal, said he is representing 50 former professional rugby league players aged in their 20s to 50s, all of whom are showing symptoms associated with neurological complications.
It’s alleged the RFL failed in its duty of care to introduce and enforce rules regarding the assessment, diagnosis and treatment of actual or suspected concussive and sub-concussive injuries.
Boardman said he and the players were motivated to act not only by financial compensation, but a desire to make the game safer for other footballers.
“The vast majority of the former players we represent love the game and don’t want to see it harmed in any way,” Boardman said. “They just want to make it safer so current and future generations don’t end up like them. Younger players such as Stevie Ward, Rob Burrow and Sam Burgess have spoken publicly about their own brain damage, so these issues aren’t restricted to older generations.
“This is why we’re asking the RFL to make a number of immediate, relatively low-cost changes to save the sport, such as limiting contact in training and extending the return to play [following a concussion].”
Former Great Britain and England international Gould – who enjoyed a 17-year career with clubs including Wigan, Leeds, Widnes and St Helens – is the biggest-name to commit to the action. The 49-year-old, who has had problems with alcohol and drug addiction, was diagnosed with early onset dementia/probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) this month.
“For something like this to come out of the blue and hit me like a bus is hard to take,” Goulding said.
“I didn’t think about dementia at all, I just thought it was the way life was. [When I played] I was 13 stone, 5ft 6in [83kgs, 168cm], playing against blokes who were 6ft 2in and 19 stone [188cm, 121kg], and didn’t even bother about it. But it takes its toll in the end, especially if they’re angry.
Bobbie Goulding playing for St Helens in 1997.Credit:Gett
“I played within days of serious knockouts on at least three occasions. I remember playing on a Sunday for Leigh at Huddersfield towards the end of my career, [in 2002]. I was in Huddersfield Royal Infirmary on the Sunday night after being seriously knocked out, and played the following Saturday against Batley.
“I didn’t have one doctor check on me during that week. ‘Bob, are you ready to play?’ he said. ‘Yeah I’ll play.’ If you watched the video, you’d be shocked.”
Goulding coaching France against Australia in 2009.Credit:Getty
Several Australian legal firms have been canvassing former NRL players in a bid to commence a class action, but to date haven’t been able to convince the requisite number to commit.
Former Newcastle winger James McManus, who launched the first local concussion case against the club, settled the matter just before it was scheduled to be heard in the Supreme Court. The former State of Origin flanker told the Herald last month that he was likely living with CTE and that he didn’t regret commencing the action if the attention it garnered prompted those “suffering in silence” to seek the help they need.
Former Parramatta forward Brett Horsnell also commenced legal action against the Eels in May 2017, but ultimately abandoned the case.
However, former NRL players may be emboldened to join a local class action if the case against the RFL results in a big payout.
Former Oldham, Swinton and Wales prop Edwards (48), former St Helens, Warrington and Scottish international Roach and former Halifax/Scotland prop Ryan McDonald (43) joined Goulding in speaking publicly about post-football life after signing up to the class action.
“I started forgetting things about 10 or 12 years ago before I was 40, even major events,” Roach said.
“One time I got into trouble with the police. I was arrested seven days after an incident in my car, but when the police knocked on my door, I had no recollection of it happening. They told me that I’d gone into the back of a car, threatened the other driver, and then driven off. The policeman said to me, ‘you’re either the best liar in the world, or you didn’t do it.’ I pleaded guilty, but to this day I can’t remember a thing.
“I used to be the life and soul, but because of the forgetfulness I’ve retreated into my shell. I was a nervous wreck getting the train because I don’t do public transport anymore. I’ve become quite reclusive. I just go to work, come home, have the odd drink in my garden.”
Sports news, results and expert commentary. Sign up for our Sport newsletter.
Most Viewed in Sport
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article