Refs given more blue card power
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.