Legend has brain damage

By Phil Rothfield

Ian Roberts (R).
Ian Roberts (R).

Kangaroo great Ian Roberts will tonight reveal he is brain-damaged from his rugby league playing days.

In a gripping interview on Channel Seven's Sunday Night programme, Roberts exposes the shocking after-effects of a career for Australia, New South Wales, South Sydney and Manly.

In his own words, the now 48-year-old says: "I have brain damage. I've been acting now for 10 years, studying lines and that kind of thing. One day, you have it down and then the next day, you're like I have just lost all that info again. That's really, I mean really scary stuff."

Fears of legal action from battered former players like Roberts is why the NRL is finally treating concussion issues so seriously. It's why the shoulder charge has been outlawed and punching banned in recent years, much to the irritation of old-school fans who love a bit of biff.

Roberts was one of the toughest men seen on a football field in four decades. He played the game with relentless aggression and as a result suffered a number of concussions.

"You know, when you are 25, at the top of your game, you know you're 10-foot tall and bulletproof," he told the show.

"I'm 48 at the moment and when you have those lapses, I have to check myself and I'm like, 'oh why can't I remember that or am I remembering that rightly?"'

He also has advice for mums and dads that will alarm the NRL: "I have got to say to any parent, they have got to question the safety of their children [playing football]."

It's why the NRL is coming down so hard on incidents like the Sonny Bill Williams shoulder charge in the season opener that will sideline the Roosters champion for three weeks.

The Insight programme on SBS on Tuesday will also reveal some alarming concussion statistics. Hospitals in Victoria and NSW have noticed a 32 per cent increase in sports-related concussions in children in the past decade, although about 75 per cent of concussions still go unreported and undiagnosed.

- Sunday Telegraph, Sydney

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