• March 20, 2017
Charlie Faumuina challenges junior players in a game of rippa rugby at Papatoetoe. Photo: Simon Chapman
The Auckland Blues are fostering the next generation of Super Rugby stars by taking a grass roots approach to concussion education.
As their season kicks off, Blues players have started putting time aside to teach up-and-coming junior players how to tackle safely.
The ‘Blues in the ’burbs’ initiative – which sees players travel around four Auckland rugby clubs to promote on-field safety – has begun.
New rules set to be trialled at provincial level rugby will see the introduction of the blue card to the referees’ arsenal.
Alongside the red and yellow cards – which see players sent off for dangerous play – the blue card gives referees the ability to send players off if they believe a player is concussed.
South Auckland born 30-year-old Blues prop Charlie Faumuina said the new rules were a step in the right direction for New Zealand rugby. The former Papatoetoe player believed it would ensure the wellbeing of players is taken seriously.
“I think when I was growing up it wasn’t something that I thought about, and still it’s all relatively new,” Mr Faumuina said.
“It’s just looking out for the next generation. We’ve got a lot of head-knock injuries, so we have to make sure those guys don’t get to that stage of their careers.
“With the new punishments that come along with it, it’s just making sure that these guys are aware of the mindset to go into tackles a lot lower, or they could be on the sidelines.”
Fellow Blues prop 23-year-old Alex Hodgman echoed Faumuina’s sentiments. He said it was important to tackle the health issues New Zealand rugby faces, and believed teaching the youngest players will ensure safer playing practice long term.
“Children are our future and if they’re getting concussions at a young age then I feel we’re not doing our job right, us and New Zealand Rugby Union,” Mr Hodgman said.
“The brain is a really delicate thing, you only get one.”
Papatoetoe Rugby Football Club Director Junior Poleuligaga was buoyed by the introduction of the new blue card regulations, which coincided with tougher tackling rules.
He said he’ll be taking his club’s adaptation of the new rules to the next level with professional health advice given to his players.
“We’re hoping to get one of the local doctors on board to speak a little bit more about the issue, just so these boys know how serious it is,” Mr Poleuligaga said.
“The last thing you want, especially as a parent, is to see your kid get concussed by a dangerous tackle. Hopefully it’ll really improve and keep tackles low.”