Refs given more blue card power

South Canterbury Herald - - SPORT - MARK QUINLIVAN

South Can­ter­bury Rugby ref­er­ees will now be able to is­sue blue cards in three more grades, as part of an ini­tia­tive driven by NZ Rugby to help man­age head in­juries.

The sys­tem op­er­ates sim­i­larly to the process that in­volves yel­low or red cards, with ref­er­ees em­pow­ered to is­sue a blue to a player if they think they may be con­cussed.

Once a card has been is­sued, play­ers are not per­mit­ted to re­turn to the field. Play­ers aged 19 and over must stand down for a minimum of 21 days, and any­one un­der 19 must take a break for at least 23 days.

Af­ter the stand-down pe­riod, play­ers may only re­turn to play if per­mit­ted to do so by a GP.

South Can­ter­bury Rugby ref- eree ed­u­ca­tion of­fi­cer Phil Lill said the scheme will be tri­alled this year in se­nior divi­sion one, two, and un­der-18 grades, and will start in the sec­ond round of those com­pe­ti­tions.

The scheme was tri­alled in the UC Cham­pi­onship last year and those tri­als will con­tinue this year.

The ini­tia­tive was first tri­alled in North­land in 2014, be­fore Can­ter­bury suc­cess­fully ran it at un­der-18 level in 2016. The sys­tem was then used across all grades in Can­ter­bury last year.

Lill said if suc­cess­ful, the union may talk about rolling the scheme out across more grades.

‘‘I wouldn’t be sur­prised if we give it another full sea­son next year.

‘‘That’s some­thing we’ll have to sit down and talk about.

‘‘It’s be­come quite a prob­lem in terms of peo­ple hav­ing to leave the game per­ma­nently be­cause of con­cus­sion.

‘‘Twenty-one days in a rugby player’s ca­reer is much bet­ter than not be­ing able to play at all.’’

South Can­ter­bury Rugby CEO Craig Calder said the union saw the trends in Can­ter­bury and the suc­cess of the blue card sys­tem, which is why they have de­cided to fur­ther trial the scheme this year.

‘‘We would have liked to have in­tro­duced it in the first round but it re­quires a bit of ed­u­ca­tion for ref­er­ees, coaches, and play­ers which is why it will start in the sec­ond round.’’

Calder said if the trial is suc­cess­ful, it’s likely the scheme will be in­tro­duced to teenage rugby grades and higher.

He said four blue cards were is­sued in the UC Cham­pi­onship in South Can­ter­bury last year.

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