Ryan Crotty lay flat on his back on the turf at Sydney's ANZ Stadium, unconscious after a head clash with fellow All Blacks midfielder Jack Goodhue.

Just 12 minutes into the team's 38-13 win over the Wallabies on Saturday, Crotty's night was done. It's becoming an all too regular affair for the 29-year-old, who may be faced with a major internal dilemma in the coming weeks.

What is life after football worth?

A professional sportsman yet to taste glory at the highest level, you can't imagine Crotty would consider stepping away until after the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. Having missed out on selection for the 2015 campaign – with Sonny Bill Williams and Malakai Fekitoa chosen to back-up Conrad Smith and Ma'a Nonu - Crotty will be eyeing that black jersey come June next year.


For his own wellbeing, the All Blacks brains trust have the power to make the decision for him – simply stop selecting him in the match day 23.

Ryan Crotty was concussed in the 12th minute of the All Blacks win over the Wallabies on Saturday night. Photo / Photosport
Ryan Crotty was concussed in the 12th minute of the All Blacks win over the Wallabies on Saturday night. Photo / Photosport

It's hard to suggest going as far as leaving him out of the squad entirely – let's be realistic here, he's been a big part if the squad for the past few years and no doubt the selectors want to give him the chance to claim a World Cup winner's medal.

But with Williams, Jack Goodhue, Anton Lienert-Brown, Jordie Barrett and Ngani Laumape all in the frame, there's no reason to risk Crotty. Goodhue and Lienert-Brown showed their talent against the Wallabies and fans would trust them as the go-to midfield pairing, though Williams is a sure starter when healthy.

In the past 15 months alone, Crotty has suffered six concussions. Playing in the midfield is a physical task, which isn't the best recipe for a committed defender prone to head knocks. And when a member of your family feels the need to share their fears over your health on social media, that's surely a sign that maybe it's time to consider the available options - even if that was not the intended purpose of their message.

In June, Crotty admitted repeated concussions might force him to retire.

"If I wasn't to bounce back from one as quickly as I tend to, then maybe you would think like that (retiring)," he said. "Potentially if they start to get worse. They are really diligent with it in the environment so you meet with some experienced doctors and I do a lot of diligence around it myself.

Ryan Crotty is guided off the pitch by medical staff. Photo / Photosport
Ryan Crotty is guided off the pitch by medical staff. Photo / Photosport

"At the start of each season I get tested to make sure that I am round the same point each season.

"If that was starting to trend badly then that would be something I would look at a little more deeply, but until then I am happy to keep going out there and keep putting my body on the line."


That last comment is one that raises concerns, as the human brain only has a limited capacity for regeneration. We're not in an age anymore where concussion is a problem that gets ignored. As Dylan Cleaver detailed in 2016 after speaking to former Taranaki representatives, concussion can lead to serious issues later in life.

Crotty has had a stellar career. Since making his Super Rugby debut with the Crusaders in 2009, the Shirley Boys' High School product has made his presence felt. In more than 130 matches for the club, Crotty has contributed more than 100 points and has been a part of two title-winning campaigns.

At the international level, the 38-cap midfielder has hoisted a number of trophies including the Rugby Championship and Bledisloe Cup, as well as playing an important role in the All Blacks' unbeaten 2013 season.

But some things are bigger than rugby, and it's time the selection panel put Crotty in a position to consider that - be it in a bench role, a position in the wider squad, or leaving him out entirely.