NRL Trials: Pre-Season Challenge, World Club Challenge games postponed over hot weather concerns, player safety

The NRL has made the decision to delay kick-off times for three games of the Pre-Season Challenge due to fears for player safety with temperatures expected to hit just under 40 degrees.

The NRL has made the decision to reschedule kick-off times for three of this weekend’s Test games due to fears for player safety in the forecast muggy conditions.

Three Pre-Season Challenge games, including the World Club Challenge between Penrith Panthers and St Helens, have been postponed as temperatures are expected to hit 38 degrees on Saturday.

In a statement released Tuesday night, the NRL confirmed it would adjust kick-off times after discussions with broadcasters.

Saturday’s Charity Shield match between St George Illawarra and South Sydney in Mudgee, where the temperature is expected to reach 36 degrees, has been moved from 3.30pm to 4.20pm.

The World Club Challenge, which was due to start at 18:00 in Penrith, where the mercury will be tipped to 38, will start at 18:50 instead.

Saturday night’s Queensland derby between the Broncos and the Cowboys at Sunshine Coast Stadium begins 35 minutes later at 8:55 p.m. (7:55 p.m. local time).

“The decision was made due to player safety concerns over the projected heat and humidity in Regional NSW and Western Sydney,” the NRL statement said.

“The NRL would like to thank broadcast partners FOX, SKY NZ and SKY UK and participating clubs (St George Illawarra Dragons, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Penrith Panthers, St Helens, Brisbane Broncos and North Queensland Cowboys) and venues for their collaboration and Flexibility.”

The changes cap a successful campaign by The Daily Telegraph after leading sports doctor Nathan Gibbs warned against playing in extreme temperatures this week.

“Severe heat illness can kill you,” said the former Souths forward and first-grader. “Heat stroke is deadly.

“Heat stress does not come on suddenly. They need the medical staff to closely monitor players who are beginning to develop signs of dehydration, including fatigue, cramps and fatigue.”

The move comes after former front rower Danny Shepherd raised concerns about the dangers of extreme temperatures after spending a month in a coma and never playing football again after collapsing during a game between Eastern Suburbs and Gold Coast in 1990.


Dean Ritchie

For the past 33 years, around this time, Danny Shepherd has been concerned about rugby league players struggling in the sweltering heat.

He fears that they could collapse from heat stroke – just like him.

Sydney’s heat nearly killed Shepherd.

The former front rower, now 62, spent four weeks in a coma after suffering heat stroke during a 1990 game for Eastern Suburbs against Gold Coast at the SFS.

Shepherd’s pals said doctors cut a slit in the player’s throat to ensure he could breathe freely.

Shepherd was on life support and the doctors asked his wife the toughest question of all.

“We were asked to consider turning off his life support,” Sue Shepherd said.

There was a vigil at Mary Immaculate Catholic Church in Waverly to essentially say goodbye.

“You just aren’t asked to gather for Mass and pray for someone — that wasn’t good,” said Wayne Marshall, a close friend and former Roosters teammate. “Danny was in a coma — he wasn’t well.”

Now Shepherd watches with concern as Penrith prepares to play St Helens in the World Club Challenge this Saturday, with temperatures expected to hit between 36 and 40 degrees in western Sydney.

It brings back frightening memories of the day Shepherd collapsed on the field in front of shocked teammates before being taken to St Vincent’s Hospital. He made a full recovery but never played first grade again.

“I was in a coma for 14 days and in the hospital for six weeks,” Shepherd told the Daily Telegraph.

“It was really serious, I was touch and go. It didn’t look good.

“I was on life support. After I was discharged, I spent a month on dialysis because I had liver and kidney failure. I had to have dialysis every day.

“They actually had a service for me, it was Cardinal Freeman. They had that because they sort of thought I wasn’t here.

“It was a scary time. It could have been a different ending and I might not have been here.

“The specialist said I had an intravascular coagulation. Luckily I got out of it all and got through it okay.

“Touch wood, I got lucky. And I have no side effects.

“Runners who suffer heat stroke have lost their legs and their muscles are wasting.

“When I woke up from the coma, everything was a blur. They had all my fingers tied because I kept pulling out tubes while I slept.

“I don’t remember the (incident). I don’t even remember going to the game. I was lucky, but it was worse for my wife and children. They had to go through that, but I don’t remember anything other than waking up in the hospital.

“They put it down as heat stroke. It wasn’t conclusive, but they suspect it was heat stroke. At the time it was probably the fittest I’ve ever had and I tried harder.

“Since then I haven’t had any more problems, but I still have an examination once a year.”

The Daily Telegraph on Monday revealed concerns about playing in Penrith in such heat, with play due to start at 6pm.

NRL management introduced new rules allowing 18 players to be fielded by each team, increased substitution times from eight to ten, added additional water breaks, ensured the game was played in 20-minute quarters and the Reduced restrictions on trainers carrying water on the field.

Leading sports physician Nathan Gibbs said: “Severe heat illness can kill you. Heat stroke kills.”

Shepherd knows a solution to tryouts in the heat is hard to come by, but has a few suggestions.

“I’m worried,” he said. “Every year there is talk about playing in the heat and heat stroke. Maybe play at night when it’s cooler.

“Maybe they could look at unlimited exchanges and play games in quarters.

“There’s not much you can do about it other than better monitor players; Maybe not postpone trials or the season until the cooler weather comes, but I don’t think you can do that.

“From my time to now, the players are better trained, are coached and monitored differently and they are all full-time professionals. They are super fit.”

Former Test star Paul Vautin was part of the Easts squad on the day Shepherd’s life changed forever.

“He was cooked,” said Vautin. “They took him to the hospital, it wasn’t good. That alarmed all the players, I know that.”

Shepherd left Sydney after recovering and has not returned.

He moved back to near his parents in Torrens Creek and worked in the mines for 20 years before retiring to Cardwell, a small town between Cairns and Townsville.

Shepherd played bush footy with Cardwell for two years before losing his passion for rugby league.

He loves fishing and also helps out a buddy who is a plumber.

“Cardwell is a beautiful part of the world,” he said.

A huge prop, Shepherd played 41 first-grade games for Easts between 1987 and 1990, including the 1987 prelim final against Canberra at the SCG.

Deathblow: “Fatal” heat warning for World Club Challenge

A former first-grader turned leading sports doctor has spoken about the “deadly” consequences of playing in top rugby league in the sweltering Sydney February heat, as the NRL endorsed a series of player safety initiatives for the prestigious World Club Challenge .

The temperature in Penrith on Saturday for the Panthers’ game against English Super League champions St Helens is expected to be between 36 and 40 degrees. The temperature on Monday in St. Helens is only two degrees.

It comes after a NSW Cup referee was hospitalized with dehydration on Saturday after deciding a game in Penrith.

The referee became unwell after a game and was taken to the hospital for rehydration and observation. He was released last Saturday night.

There is no indication that WCC could be canceled or postponed, but the NRL is closely monitoring the Bureau of Meteorology’s heat forecast for Sydney’s west.

“Severe heat illness can kill you,” said former Souths forward Nathan Gibbs, the Waratahs’ doctor, who has just returned from Narrabri, where temperatures hit 36 ​​degrees for a friendly between NSW and Queensland. “Heat stroke is deadly.

“Heat stress does not come on suddenly. They need the medical staff to closely monitor players who are beginning to develop signs of dehydration, including fatigue, cramps and fatigue.

“The Australian players have been training here all summer to get used to the heat. Acclimatization is a big part of preparing for heat stress.”

Due to the expected heat, the NRL has introduced new rules for the WCC that will allow:

* Eighteen players used by each team.

* Exchange increased from eight to ten.

* Additional water breaks with game played in 20 minute quarters.

* Reduced restrictions on coaches carrying water on the field.

“This is after consultation and agreement by both clubs and is an acknowledgment of terms, particularly for a Northern Hemisphere team,” said Graham Annesley, NRL head of football for elite competitions.

“Normally, the World Club Challenge would be played under the regular competition rules, but as a concession to the expected terms, we have relaxed those rules. Normal heat regulations also apply.

“The weather at this time of year is always hot, no matter who is playing where.

“As such, the NRL has implemented heat guidelines that can be automatically activated once the two team physicians are satisfied there is a requirement for it.”

The NRL uses a heat guideline called the Heat Stress Index, which measures ambient temperature and conditions along with air temperature, humidity and wind flow.

There is a limit temperature at which a game can be abandoned, but that is rare.

St Helens arrived in Australia in late January for acclimatization, playing in temperatures of 24 degrees during Saturday’s WCC warm-up game against St George Illawarra in Wollongong.

Many in rugby league still remember the shocking and frightening death of East’s property manager Danny Shepherd in 1990.

Shepherd suffered heat stroke in a pre-season game against Gold Coast and spent 11 days in St Vincent’s Hospital.

There were real fears that Shepherd was going to die. He made a full recovery but never played first grade again.

Originally published as NRL Studies: Pre-Season Challenge, World Club Challenge Games Delayed Due to Hot Weather Concerns, Player Safety NRL Trials: Pre-Season Challenge, World Club Challenge games postponed over hot weather concerns, player safety

Ryan Sederquist

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