Newcastle Knights co-captain Sione Mata’utia will miss the last two games of the season as a precaution.
CONCERN: Tony Ayoub helps Sione Mata’utia from the field after suffering a head knock against Melbourne. Picture: Darren Pateman, AAPA FRUSTRATED SioneMata’utia will miss the last two games of the season –even though he complied withthe NRL’sconcussion protocols–after Knights officials and neurologist Dr Andrew Gardner decided it would be in his best interests to err on the side of caution.
Newcastle coach Nathan Brown was optimistic on Tuesday morning that the 21-year-old would be able to play against Canberra on Fridaynight, despite suffering his third game-ending head knock of the season against Melbourne last weekend.
Mata’utia was subsequentlya surprise omissionfrom the 21-man squad and Brown revealed on Friday that he would also miss Newcastle’s final game of 2017, against Cronulla on Sunday week.
He will undergo further scans and assessments to determine if he will be fit to represent Samoa at the end-of-season World Cup.
Mata’utia told Knights staff it was “ridiculous” that he had passed all his tests and was not allowed to play, before accepting advice that his long-term welfare was more important.
Brown said it was a confusing situation because even the experts were unsure whether Mata’utia would be at risk if he took the field against Canberra.
“Sione was cleared to play, but both the club and Andrew Gardner thought it would be in his best interests to have the last couple of games off and have some more tests done,’’ Brown said.
Newcastle’s physical-performance manager, Tony Ayoub, took Mata’utia to his consultation with Dr Gardner and said his history of head knocks prompted a safety-first course of action.
The 2014 Kangaroos representative has been involvedat least five incidentsin the past two seasons that have led to him being replaced after head-injury assessments.
“When you look at normal return-to-play protocols after a HIA, Sione’s on target and could have played [against Canberra],” Ayoub said.
“But given that this is his third one this year,we just decided that as a club we had to do the right thing by Sione.
“Andrew Gardner agreed that doing some more testing, getting another opinion, would probably be a prudent thing before he returned to play.
“And to be brutally honest, Sione wasn’t happy. He asked: ‘If I’ve passed everything, why aren’t I playing? That’s ridiculous.’
“But the big problem that we’ve got is that treating concussions or HIAs, no one can give us a definitive answer, because no one really knows.”
Asked if Mata’utia was still a chance to play inthe World Cup, at which he hopes to represent Samoa, possibly alongside his brother Peter, Ayoub replied: “We’ll be guided by the specialists, but we haven’t put a line through the World Cup yet, that’s for sure.”
Meanwhile, the Knights expect Brisbane enforcer Adam Blair will decide this weekend whether or not to join them next season.
Newcastle have offered the 31-year-old Kiwi international a three-season contract. Other clubs are reportedly willing to sign him for four years.