A rugby league player's family say they are concerned about how his club responded after he was briefly knocked unconscious in a tackle.

They want answers after Papakura Sea Eagles reserves player John Wharepapa, 28, suffered concussion and fractures to his nose, an eye socket and a cheekbone in a home match yesterday against Pt Chevalier.

The club said it is investigating the incident.

Wharepapa's partner Nikita Hunter and mother Sarndra are concerned an ambulance wasn't called to the field and that he was walked off, with the help of two men, one under each arm.


"Had he had a broken neck, if he was moved that could have caused paralysis," said Hunter.

"They should know the dangers. I thought they would have had procedures following injuries on the field."

Wharepapa's mother said the initial management of her son's injury was contrary to Auckland Rugby League policy on players knocked unconscious.

"It says if they're unconscious to dial 111."

The New Zealand Rugby League policy, which also covers the Auckland league, states, "Do not move the player from the field while they are unconscious. This should be left to appropriate medical or ambulance personnel.

"When the player has regained consciousness and their breathing is regular and unobstructed, the player should be carried from the field and allowed to recover fully. Such incidents require immediate review by a doctor."

Hunter said: "To me, it looked like a normal tackle. Everyone was piled on top of everyone. Once the pile cleared I noticed John was still on the ground and then he moved to hold his head.

"A few coaches ran onto the field and started pouring water on him. He had to be lifted and carried. He walked, but not independently."


The match resumed after he was off the field, Hunter said.

Hunter described Wharepapa's confused, forgetful state when he eventually realised she was there. Later, he stated that he had blacked out at least for a few seconds.

A physiotherapist who had attended to him told her, "I would call an ambulance but it might be faster to go to A&E [an accident and medical centre]."

Hunter drove him to an accident and medical centre where he was assessed, given medication for his extreme pain and an ambulance was called to take him to Middlemore Hospital. He had a CT scan and concussion was diagnosed.

She said a Sea Eagles trainer spoke to Wharepapa in hospital. "The first thing he said was, 'You didn't get knocked out. I know that because you walked off'."

"I felt the purpose of the conversation may be a little bit covering their tracks," Hunter said.

Wharepapa will have facial reconstruction surgery, but must first wait for the swelling to go down. He is expected to be discharged home from hospital today for the wait.

The Herald has sought comments from the club and the Auckland Rugby League.

Club official Alwyn Peters said he wasn't at Wharepapa's match, and would investigate before commenting.

Auckland Rugby League chief executive Greg Whaiapu said: "The Auckland Rugby League and New Zealand Rugby League have very clear policies and procedures in place for such issues.

"The club is investigating the matter, and until the facts are known there are is no further comment to make."