Dana Johannsen 's Opinion

Dana Johannsen is a NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Dana Johannsen: Long break will help star - and rugby

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Kieran Read of the All Blacks looks on from the sidelines during a New Zealand All Blacks training session. Photo/ Getty Images
Kieran Read of the All Blacks looks on from the sidelines during a New Zealand All Blacks training session. Photo/ Getty Images

It went against everything we know about concussion (which is very little in the grand scheme of things) but many of us hoped Kieran Read's comeback for the Crusaders at the weekend was a sign his head troubles were over.

Yes, he was a little tentative around the park, but when the world's best player's future was in question, it was easy to talk yourself into thinking he was back on track.

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Yesterday's news that Read has been ruled out of the opening test against England suggests he is not. If he is showing concussion-like symptoms after simply playing, it is a worrying sign.

While it is tempting to become amateur neurologists and dish out medical advice for Read - there have already been calls for the bustling loose forward to hang up his boots - it is important to point out that Read will have access to the top medical professionals in the field of brain injuries.

He will be getting expert guidance and support.

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But you have to wonder if the best course of action for Kieran Read the man and Kieran Read the resource would be for All Blacks management to scratch the No 8 from all rugby until the end-of-year tour. As the acknowledged best player in the world, Read is a key part of the All Blacks' plans for defending their world title next year. Giving him a clean break would give him the best possible chance to resolve his symptoms.

Also to be considered is the effect the uncertainty is having on Read. Unpalatable as the solution may be, having certainty can be liberating. Sitting out the June internationals and the Rugby Championship would give him clarity about his playing status, rather than going week by week with the question mark over his health and enduring the frustration of constant testing.

As distressing as the lengthy lay-off and scrutiny over his future must be for Read and his family, he has at least given further visibility to the way the sport manages brain injuries.

Read is in the fortunate position of having expert medical advice and supervision. But it is at schoolboy and grassroots level - where players don't have the same medical supervision and rigorous return-to-play protocols - that attitudes should be challenged.

Having Read spend an extended stint on the sideline will hopefully prompt those young players and weekend warriors who believe playing on after a head knock is a badge of honour to adjust their thinking.

• Long debated by rugby scribes, the issue of the All Blacks bypassing the Pacific Islands has become an issue of Great National Import thanks to a Campbell Live campaign.

Many reasons have been offered by the NZRU for its decision to ignore requests to play a test in the Pacific Islands in favour of taking the game to non-traditional rugby nations like Japan, and this year, the US.

The most curious justification has to be that playing the USA in Chicago will be excellent preparation for next year's World Cup as it will help the team get their heads around taking on a weaker opposition one week, then a stronger nation the next.

The NZRU would earn more respect in my book if it it said: "AIG has asked us to play in Chicago as it has a big head office there and because it is giving us a gazillion dollars a year, we kinda need to keep it happy".

- NZ Herald

Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is a NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Dana has over a decade’s experience in sports journalism, joining the Herald in 2007 following stints with TVNZ and RadioSport. Over that time Dana has covered several major events including the 2011 Netball World Cup in Singapore, 2011 Rugby World Cup, 2012-13 Volvo Ocean Race, and the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco. A multi-award winning journalist, Dana was named New Zealand Sports Journalist of the Year in 2012 after scooping both the news and feature categories at the TP McLean Awards. The previous year she picked up the prize for best news break. She was also an inaugural recipient of the Sir John Wells scholarship at the 2009 NZSJA awards. Dana also writes a weekly sports column for the NZ Herald.

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