GROUP Nine Junior Rugby League president Bernie Delaney says new protocols which will see players stood down for 16 days after suffering concussions have been "a long time coming".
New South Wales Rugby League (NSWRL) has dramatically strengthened its protocols to protect players this season, including making a doctor's clearance mandatory before players can return to action.
An automatic 14-day stand down period, including from training, will apply after a concussion. Players will then be required to complete two days of contract training without showing any symptoms before they can play again.
The guidelines will also be in place across the state in senior football, with clubs allowed to field an 18th man who can play if a teammate is ruled out through concussion.
Delaney, also a sports trainer involved with Wagga Kangaroos, said it's up to everyone to take the protocols seriously in the interests of their welfare.
"I reckon it's been a long time coming, especially for the juniors," he said.
"The new rules they've brought in, we had those in the Academy teams this year and it's a step in the right direction, the kids' health is paramount as far as I'm concerned.
"I know over the years some people have been a bit blase about it all, but some of the older footballers are suffering mental health issues created by repeated concussions.
"Most of the trainers are pretty well versed in it anyway, but we've got a Zoom meeting on Monday night where we'll get that message across to them."
Delaney believes the fact the junior competitions will be non-competitive this year will help remove the temptation to play concussed players in an effort to avoid standing them down.
"I'm a level two trainer and have been dealing with this for quite a while now. 'When in doubt rule them out' is my motto," he said.
"I can't see what's happening inside their head. They might look good and talk OK, but then they get really crook a couple of days later with delayed concussion.
"I've seen players in the 18s get some bad knocks and take 18 months to recover from it. It's pretty scary when it happens.
"When there's screaming parents there it's harder, getting them to do the right thing is a big thing as well.
"I've always stood them (concussed players) down for at least a week regardless, and they've had to have a doctor's clearance to come back.
"These are young men, they're going to have families or already do. We don't want kids looking at them at the dinner table and asking what's wrong."