NRL News: Kick-offs ‘closer to a change soon’ as concussion concerns grow, Flanno fires up at Sharks, setbacks for Phins


Both Trent Robinson and Shane Flanagan have weighed into the debate on concussions and kick-offs after Mosese Suli’s horror knockout in the first play of the Anzac Day match between St George Illawarra and the Sydney Roosters on Thursday.

Suli was sparked by a head-on-head collision with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves, in isolation an accident but a scene seen regularly this year as players return restarts with venom and gangs of tacklers attempt to engage an upright opponent.

“It’s a really hard one because I love kick-offs because they set a statement to how we wanted to play today,” said Easts boss Robinson.

“But we don’t want to see that for Mosese.

“I think we can see that we’re getting to the point where it needs to shift. I think they tried to do it through the short kick-offs, but it’s not enough.

“Field position is still a really big part of the game, so you need to get down there. I think we’re getting closer to a change soon.”

Dragons counterpart Flanagan lamented the effect on his side as well but questioned how the league could counteract it without changing the fabric of the sport.

“It’s a terrible way to start a game, and we did miss him because he’s powerful from the back of the field,” he said.

“We couldn’t win that battle from the back of the field and we were always kicking from inside our 40.

“We want to play this really tough gladiator sport, and we want to get down there – especially off kick-offs – and have really good contact with front-rowers.

“But we see it too often. I don’t know the answer, but we see it too often.

“When it happens to one of your players, it’s not nice to see. I don’t know how we stop it, unless we start with a play the ball, and that’s not something I’d like to see.

“In the modern game, we can’t have these concussions. We need to look after the players.

“The short dropouts and all that have probably changed it a little bit, but I don’t know the answer.”

Shane Flanagan. (Photo by Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images)

Flanno takes aim at Sharks

Flanagan later fanned the flames ahead of his reunion with Cronulla, declaring the Sharks are a side he is “really interested in beating”.

And he didn’t stop there, clipping the Sharks for their failure to win an NRL premiership since the club’s first and only title was delivered back when he was head coach in 2016. 

Flanagan had the perfect smokescreen after St George Illawarra were pumped 60-18 by the Sydney Roosters on Thursday as the focus quickly turned to his return to Shark Park on Sunday week.

The 58-year-old coach was deregistered and moved on as Cronulla coach on the eve of the 2019 season after it emerged he had breached the terms of an NRL ban handed out in 2014.

John Morris and current coach Craig Fitzgibbon have followed in his footsteps, with neither mentor able to move the Sharks beyond the second week of finals. 

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But rather than downplay his return to Cronulla’s home ground, Flanagan leaned into the occasion as the Dragons were reeling from their Anzac Day annihilation at the hands of the Roosters.

“It (the Sharks game) has been marked in the calendar for a while,” he said. 

“It won’t be an emotional week, no, I won a comp there. I don’t think they’ve won one since, have they?

“My job is to get these boys up, whether we’re playing the Sharks, I need to get the boys up to where we were a few weeks ago.

“It’s not about me, I don’t care about me and I don’t want it to be about me, I want it to be about the team and the club.”

Flanagan insisted he had moved on with his life and he will need his Dragons side to regroup, too, after an encouraging run of form was brought to an abrupt end by the Roosters. 

Dolphins star quartet still weeks away

The Dolphins have mixed news on four of their injured representative stars, with return-to-play timelines on prop Thomas Flegler and centre Herbie Farnworth day-by-day propositions.

Dolphins head of performance Jeremy Hickmans told AAP second-rower Felise Kaufusi (grade two hamstring) was on track for a round 10 or 11 return.

Fullback Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow, also recovering from a grade two hamstring injury, should be back before the Queensland team play NSW in the State of Origin opener on June 5. 

Maroons prop Flegler (shoulder) has not played since the round-five win over Wests Tigers.

“Flegs had some nerve damage. It sounds dramatic, but essentially it is like a burner to his shoulder, but a bad burner,” Hickmans told AAP.

“We just have to take time to get his strength back. It is a little bit of a day-by-day or week-by-week proposition. It could come good straight away or take a bit longer, but it’s going in the right direction.

“We will slowly reintroduce him to skills and keep working on his strength in the gym, which is getting better and better.”

(Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

England international Farnworth suffered a grade-three AC joint sprain against the Tigers. “Herbie is a bit like Flegs,” Hickmans said.

“With him at the moment it is about settling it down, getting his strength back and slowly seeing what he can cope with. We did a little bit of contact in a looser sense on Tuesday and he is still a bit sore. 

“We will introduce him to skills and see how he is feeling because essentially now it is not about risk of further injury. It is a pain management thing. 

“We don’t want to be jabbing him (with needles) for the rest of the year. An AC joint is one where you can do, but that can cause further problems. We have got the boys who can do the job in the (centres) in the meantime, so let’s not rush him.”

Hickmans said Tongan international Kaufusi, another casualty against Wests, was “going well” in recovery. “In the next couple of weeks we should have an idea of where he will be. He could be back next week, but we are probably looking at round 10 or 11,” he said.

Maroons star Tabuai-Fidow, injured in round six against Brisbane, is further away from a return.

“The challenge with Hammer is him, because he is so fast and explosive,” Hickmans said.

“Getting him to that final (stage of recovery) is where we have to be careful with him. He was a grade two, but (the strain was) in a better place than Fus. His was more of a standard strain, whereas Fus was more tendon related.

“I imagine, and I touch wood when I say this, that Hammer will be back before Origin, but it’s just a matter of when.

“All four are all on track. Two – Herbie and Flegs –  are a little bit open-ended. Fus is getting closer and Hammer is ticking along.”

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