Ongoing investigations into a tragic rugby accident in Wellington seem to have cleared the referee of wrongdoing, even though the injured player may have played most of the game with concussion.

A 19-year-old Wellington Rugby Club colts age-group player remains in critical condition in Wellington Hospital with a serious brain injury after collapsing near the end of his game against Paremata Plimmerton at Ngati Toa Domain, Porirua, on Saturday.

The unnamed player was placed in an induced coma and underwent brain surgery soon after arriving at hospital, and family have remained in attendance since.

After an initial statement from Wellington Rugby over the weekend, authorities are making no further comment, out of respect for the family.


But after extensive interviews of everyone involved in the game - players, coaches, officials and spectators - it is believed the referee for the fixture is not under scrutiny and appears to have done everything by the book in his handling of the accident.

Initial reports referenced the player being involved in a first-half "collision", but subsequent enquiries suggest the incident was no worse than a regulation tackle, and he displayed no obvious concussions through most of the game or half-time break.

As soon as his deteriorating condition was brought to the referee's attention, about five minutes before full-time, the player was sent from the field and he collapsed on the sideline soon after.

With concussion and "brain injury" being such a contentious issue in contact sports, all club coaches are required to undergo safety training under the ACC-sponsored RugbySmart programme.

Referees must adhere to the "Blue Card" concussion initiative, trailed in Northland during the 2014 season.

"If the referee believes a player has been concussed or suspects a player has been concussed, the referee must show a Blue Card to that player and that player will be required to leave the playing area," says the protocols. "This player cannot return and play in that match."

But the "Blue Card" initiative also states that the referee cannot be held solely responsible or liable if a player is found to be concussed under their watch, and that player safety is "the joint responsibility of many".