CARLTON coach Mick Malthouse wants the AFL to consider a second substitute player in games, to be used solely when teammates are being assessed for concussion.
Malthouse said he was far more alert on issues of player welfare and the potential for lasting damage that serious knocks to the head could cause than when he first coached 29 years ago, when ”we used to say to blokes, ‘Grow up, get out there again”’.
But he was also concerned about the physical effect on teams playing a man down while doctors were checking a player who had been hit in the head.
”Perhaps what we’ve got to look at is if there’s going to be new rules implemented, and we take a player off for a 10 to 15-minute testing, we’ve got to have the capacity to put a player on for that 10 or 15 minutes, either a sub or a second sub,” he said on Wednesday.
”Then we’re starting to get somewhere because at the moment we’re all panicking about that time the player is off.
”Make no mistake about it, we can all say what we like pre-match [but] during the match we’re going ‘we’re really getting tossed about in the middle here because we haven’t got the resources to replenish it’.
”We’ve got to look bigger and better and more outside to accommodate all new rules.”
The AFL announced on Wednesday it would hold a two-day summit on concussion on March 20-21, where experts from around the world would present the latest research and discuss preventive measures such as rest periods after head knocks and helmet use and technology.
The conference, which is also sponsored by the NRL and ARU, will focus on the best practice in managing concussion, and the AFL expects any changes it makes to its guidelines to be used at community level. In the AFL players cannot return to the field after being concussed.
Malthouse said he could not remember his first game in the then VFL because he was knocked out, and conceded football was sometimes ”violent” because of accidental head clashes.
He expected the league to one day consider the broader use of helmets. ”It’s going to have to come back at some stage to the medical people to say ‘We’ve now developed this [helmet] model that can fit over the head that softens the blow’,” he said.
Collingwood captain Nick Maxwell conceded he was worried for his peers who suffered head knocks, although the industry was improving at resting players if they were concussed. ”It’s got to be the doctors and experts in the industry to come out and say what’s best for the players,” he said.
The concussion debate arose again at the weekend when Brownlow medallist Greg Williams admitted that head knocks he took during his playing days had affected his memory and moods.
Melbourne is currently keeping forward Rohan Bail out of contact drills at training because of two head knocks he suffered at training earlier this year.
Bail, 24, missed four games last season because of concussion symptoms and must pass a series of checks before the Demons clear him to return to the side.
Malthouse welcomed rules tested in the NAB Cup preventing players sliding into opponents’ legs and ruckmen from tangling until the umpire had released the ball because both protected footballers.
With MATT MURNANE
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