Medics are right to err on side of caution, says Wakefield Trinity’s Chris Chester

THE sight of five players going off for head injury assessments could be a sign that rugby league - already one of the toughest sports – is getting a little too tough.

Wakefied Trinitys head coach Chris Chester has lost Tom Johnstone for the season. The England winger's injury has required knee reconstruction (Picture: Richard Sellers/PA Wire).
Wakefied Trinitys head coach Chris Chester has lost Tom Johnstone for the season. The England winger's injury has required knee reconstruction (Picture: Richard Sellers/PA Wire).

The players seem to be getting bigger, the collisions seem to be getting bigger, so is it inevitable that there is a bigger chance of concussions happening?

In fairness, it may just be bad luck as it is certainly not often so many HIAs occur in a single match as it did on Sunday when Catalans Dragons saw three players depart for checks and hosts Hull KR also had a couple under the watchful eye of medical staff.

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Players undergo a series of checks during a 15-minute period to determine whether or not they are suffering from concussion before it is decided whether they can return to the field of play.

On Sunday only Remi Casty of the Catalans trio was deemed fit to rejoin the action although the Rovers duo of Mose Masoe and Mitch Garbutt each came off with fewer than 15 minutes remaining so had no opportunity to do so.

Wakefield Trinity coach Chris Chester – who has seen plenty of injury problems of his own with England winger Tom Johnstone ruled out for the season at the weekend – is a firm believer that the process is positive and is not being misused.

“I didn’t see Sunday’s game, but that – five HIAs – just seems a freak occurrence,” he said.

“I think the most we’ve had is one, or maybe two, but I’ve no issues with it.

“I think it’s great. You have to put your trust in your medical people; they’re the guys that make the decisions.

“We’re fortunate that we’ve got a TV at the side of the pitch that they can have a look at.

“I don’t think there’s any team in this comp that would use it the wrong way. We’ve got it right and I’m glad they’re erring on the side of caution.

“Sometimes it is just unfortunate (concussions occurring), but it’s not due to the sport getting too dangerous or anything like that.”

The same could be said for Johnstone’s injury after he ruptured his ACL in a “freak” accident in the win at Hull FC on Friday.

Chester is considering exploring the loan market as the club look to fill the hole left by the 23-year-old’s enforced absence.

Johnstone will miss the rest of the season and it is the second time in under two years he has required a knee reconstruction although it is not the same leg.

Wakefield have received better news on Dream Team centre Bill Tupou, who also injured a knee on Friday.

He will miss Thursday’s televised home game against Warrington Wolves, but could be back for the following week’s contest against Salford Red Devils.

“Bill’s is nothing long-term,” said Chester.

“We were all fearing the worst when they both got on the bus with a knee brace and crutches.

“To lose two guys like that – Bill and Tom – who regularly get 130 to 150m per game, they’re going to be hard shoes to fill.

“But it gives someone like Joe Arundel an opportunity and we have a little bit of cover there as well with some young kids while there’s potential as well to go into the loan market or have a look and see what’s available.”

Trinity full-back Ryan Hampshire had a successful spell on the wing with Castleford Tigers in 2016, but is currently impressing in the No 1 role.

Chester says he will speak to chief executive Michael Carter and chairman John Minards after the game against Warrington.

He conceded: “I said to Michael if we get one more injury in the outside backs we’re in a bit of strife. Last year we had a little bit more depth with Mason Caton-Brown (who then left for Toronto)

“This year we’ve got young Lee Kershaw, we have Rocky (Hampshire) as well that can play there, but we don’t really want to disrupt something that’s going well already just for the sake of filling one position.

“We’ve had a few names thrown at us, but we’ll wait and see what happens Thursday. “We’ll know more about Bill over the next 24-48 hours and then I’ll sit down with Michael and John to see what we can bring in and what quality is out there.

“It has to be the right fit for the club as well.”

On how Johnstone is bearing up, Chester added: “He’s in good spirits. It didn’t come as a shock this time whereas the time before when he did his ACL in the Catalans game in 2017 he thought he’d just jarred his knee or got a strain to his medial.

“That did come as a shock, but Friday night he was in so much pain he knew something serious had happened.

“He’s disappointed and fed up, but he’s got a good family behind him and the support of the club, staff and players and everyone is just really disappointed for him.

“He’d started the season really strong and was playing particularly well on Friday night as well, causing Hull some problems.

“There was obviously the potential of Great Britian selection at the end of the year, too.”

Wakefield welcome back prop George King against Warrington, the club he left in the autumn, after he and Keegan Hirst were omitted at Hull for tactical reasons.

However, second-row Danny Kirmond has been handed a two-game penalty notice for a Grade C dangerous contact in Friday’s success, so he will be absent.