A concussion lawsuit brought against one of the most respected sports doctors in Australia has been discontinued, the first of its kind to be finalised stemming from the treatment of head knocks in the NRL.
In a move which could have wide-ranging implications in the growing concussion space, the Herald understands former Cronulla Sharks forward Reece Williams has dropped his legal action against the club's long-serving ex-doctor David Givney.
Settled: Reece Williams.Credit:Craig Golding
It's believed the case was quietly wound up in recent weeks after Williams had previously served legal papers on Givney with an intention to sue over the handling of his head injuries.
Givney previously served as part of the support staff for the NSW State of Origin side and has made a return to the NRL this season as the Bulldogs' medico.
Williams was forced to prematurely retire from the NRL at the age of 25 after a serious head knock, in which he was found to have a blood clot on the brain in 2009. He had only played 98 NRL games by the time he hung up the boots.
And his case, one of several to have been lodged in the judicial system, has been closely watched by a number of former players.
Williams, 33, is employed within the NRL referees department and launched his legal action against medical staff and not the club or the NRL.
He politely declined to comment when contacted by the Herald on Thursday, but Givney confirmed the case had been discontinued.
Rugby league has already been grappling with legal action launched by former Newcastle Knights winger James McManus and ex-Eel Brett Horsnell against their old clubs over the handling of their concussion cases.
Horsnell has admitted to post-playing career mental health problems while McManus was the first Australian footballer to sue a professional sporting club after claiming the Knights should have forced him to retire from rugby league.
But the Williams case is the first of its kind to be finalised as the NRL beefs up its concussion protocols in 2019.
League Central announced last year it would implement a rule where clubs would be required to have two doctors on the sideline at each game this season to further help assess complex injuries such as head knocks, which have proven a challenge if occurring to players from the same side within a matter of minutes.
It follows the use of a concussion spotter in the crowd at State of Origin matches and an independent medico who consulted with the team doctors of both NSW and Queensland on whether to drag a player from the field.
The NRL has previously dished out massive fines to clubs which have flouted concussion protocols but has warned of the threat of driving medicos away from the game if they named and shamed every breach in the public domain.
While former NSW City representative Williams has been out of the game for almost a decade, his old club will begin their premiership assault under the tutelage of a first-year NRL coach who joined the Sharks a year after Williams' retirement.
John Morris will take charge of Cronulla against the Knights after a stormy off-season which saw premiership-winning coach Shane Flanagan deregistered for breaching the rules of his 2014 ban.
"I know what success looks like for this club and the players do too," Morris said. "We were a game away from last year's grand final so it'd be silly to come in and change things for change's sake.
"I was very involved with the boys last year, particularly our spine. So I didn't really have to bring too much change. The change we have automatically with Shaun Johnson and Josh Morris joining our squad brings it naturally."
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