As a part of the league’s tweaks ahead of the 2021 season, when a trainer asks for a match official to stop the game due to an injury, the injured player must either be interchanged or taken off the field for a period of two minutes of elapsed game time before he is permitted to resume his place on the field.
Slater suggested that the rule was put in place to reduce the number of stoppages for players who suffer in-game cramps, but worried for the implications on head knocks.
“There has certainly been an issue in the game that trainers have put their hand up and stopped the game when the player is well out of play and he’s got a cramp, that has frustrated a lot of people,” Slater told Wide World of Sports.
“The concern for me is when the trainer wants to assess a player for a head injury. If he’s got an inkling that a player may have succumbed to a concussion, if he stops the game and that player has not had a concussion, that player has to leave the field and have a concussion test which takes up a replacement, or your team is down to 12 for two minutes.
“That is going to have trainers (stop) erring on the side of caution (with head knocks). They’re going to push the limits a little bit because they’re going to say, ‘Well I’m not going to stop play here to assess this player because if I’m wrong that’s on me and we’re down to 12 men’.
“All of a sudden, trainers have got a lot of pressure on them to make that right decision. There has only got to be one play that doesn’t stop and the player has got a head injury and he continues playing for five (more) minutes because the trainer was under pressure to stop the game and he didn’t want to be that person. That is the concern with this rule.
“The rule has been put in place to not have the game stopped for cramps, everyone gets frustrated with that. But with how much ground we’ve made up and how far we’ve come with head injuries, I think this is going to put a lot of pressure on trainers to make a decision on the run where they might not have even seen the incident.”
Slater added that every one of the NRL’s rule changes will have a “side effect” that is yet to be determined until they are implemented in games.
“If you change a rule, something else will happen,” he said.
“Until these rules flow through the game and we get an opportunity to see them in action under pressure consistently, that’s when we’re going to see how players are going to take advantage of them and what sort of repercussions are going to come from these rules being in place.”
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