Jake King, the former Richmond player, is the latest ex-player to be involved in a legal stoush with the AFL for compensation. King is seeking compensation for a career-ending toe injury, which forced his early retirement in 2014. The legal action is being handled by the AFL Players’ Association on behalf of King. A six figure sum is being sought in compensation and if successful the money would come from an AFL Insurance policy. If King wins his compensation case it could be the forerunner to a host of compensation claims by former AFL players.
The game of AFL at the top level is becoming ever-more faster and ferocious, as players are expected to put their bodies on the line at every contest. Coaches and commentators are constantly reminding us, and the players, that this is the non-negotiable of football. Some would say it has always been so, but the size and the speed of current AFL players has never been greater; making collisions far more likely to result in serious injury. Which we have witnessed already at the outset of the 2015 AFL season, with Western Bulldog’s club champion Tom Liberatore suffering a season ending knee injury; as did Eric Mackenzie and Mitch Brown of the West Coast Eagles; Melbourne’s Christian Petracca; Richmond’s Nathan Drummond; and North Melbourne’s Daniel Neilson. Some players are prone to repeating knee injuries and never regain their AFL playing careers; will this too see increasing claims for compensation? AFL medical experts have previously expressed their concerns via the 2013 injury report, written by Associate Professor John Orchard of the University of Sydney and Dr Hugh Seward of the AFL Doctor’s Association. This report found a 30% rise in knee construction from the previous year, and that over a third of these were actually second knee constructions due to the failure of the initial tendon graft in the preceding year.
In the US, the NFL reached an agreement with ex-players to compensate them with a $765 million settlement for concussion related brain injuries received whilst playing. From some 18 000 former players 4 500 are claiming to be suffering from some sort of dementia, depression or Alzheimer’s disease. The AFL and the AFL Players’ Association are concerned about the possibility of a similar outcome with the game here in Australia; and have enacted rule changes to protect players from head injuries. The question is will these rule changes go far enough to prevent ongoing increases in serious player injury and the resulting claims for compensation?
Looking to talk to someone about whether your sports injury can qualify for compensation lawyers representation? If in Sydney or NSW contact us, if in Melbourne, Brisbane or beyond we can refer you.
The AFL is now a game played by extremely fit large men, with the size of modern players dramatically increasing over recent decades. For example, one of Carlton’s greatest sons, Big John Nicholls, a premier ruckman of the nineteen sixties and seventies was 189 centimetres tall. It is no overstatement to say that BIG John straddled the then VFL competition like a behemoth, punching balls twenty metres down the ground and rag dolling lesser men. The Sydney Swans’ Josh Kennedy, a midfielder, stands today at 188cm. In today’s AFL game midfielders are the size of yester year’s ruckmen and power forwards; no wonder the wrenching turns and crunching collisions are sending those who come off second best to the compensation courts.
Country football and the lesser AFL leagues are also seeing harder, faster football being played and the incidents of serious injury are likewise increasing. In south-west Victoria, Otway Districts club champion Aaron Mahoney tragically died on the weekend, after being tackled. The 24 year old father of two was initially thought to have been winded in the tackle, but support staff, and later paramedics, were unable to revive him and he died at the scene. It is difficult to even consider the issue of compensation in these circumstances, but we must, a young footballer’s family now depend upon it.