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by Lisa Albergo reporting for AFANA from Chicago

Brisbane defender Matt Maguire has been forced into retirement due to a severe concussion suffered during a NEAFL match on Anzac Day (April 25). Maguire, 31, began his career with St Kilda in 2002 and

played 99 games for the Saints before a badly broken leg interrupted his career. He joined the Lions in 2009 and played 71 games. He has played just two games this season.

Although Brisbane's medical staff were confident Maguire would fully recover, he had still been suffering after-effects of the concussion - headaches, head and neck pain, blurred vision and dizziness. He had scans two months ago which revealed several blood clots on his brain. According to Maguire, the symptoms have prevented him from training or running properly so he could return to play. It was the seventh concussion Maguire has suffered over the course of his career. While he was assured by specialists that the symptoms would subside, he was told that it would take time.



Maguire spoke to several other players, including Jonathan Brown, about the impact of concussions, the different effects and the long-term effects. He said those chats and his impending fatherhood also influenced his decision.  Maguire said he was proud of what he had achieved and that he was able to get the best out of himself. Coach Justin Leppitsch said on the club's website that Maguire had "left a great legacy in helping develop ... the current group of young defenders ... The next generation ... can take a lot out what you've given them". He also praised Maguire's resilience.

Just days before Maguire announced his retirement, there was plenty of debate regarding the tackle laid by Carlton's Bryce Gibbs on Port Adelaide's Robbie Gray. Gibbs pinned Gray's arms to his side before throwing him to the ground. As a result, Gray's head hit the turf and he was sidelined for the second half with a concussion. Gibbs received a two match suspension from the Match Review Panel for rough conduct. The issue centered on whether or not the tackle was made as one movement or if Gibbs flung him to the ground with a second movement. Some say yes, others say no.

Many believe the suspension was correct and some have called for tougher rules to protect players' heads. Others do not want to see the physicality removed from the game, saying it is a contact sport. Maguire, a physical player himself, says his retirement due to concussion has given him a more rounded perspective. While he believes the head needs protection, he said the League needed to be careful not to compromise the spirit of the game which he thinks could happen if the AFL tries to completely eliminate head knocks. He defended Gibbs saying Gibbs was taught to play that way. Like others, he agrees that concussion is going to happen in contact sports, stating "I am in favor of doing everything we can do to reduce ... concussions and head-high hits ... But there's a fine line between ruling it out completely and also trying to keep the aggression and all the things that make our game great."

Gray's teammate Chad Wingard believes there was nothing wrong with the tackle and that Gray was just unlucky. He went so far as to say it was a great tackle. He also said that star players like Gray are always going to be physically targeted. Former North Melbourne star Wayne Carey said if the AFL continued to over-legislate, the game would be like Ring-Around-The Rosie and would become unrecognizable and more like soccer or Gaelic football. He compared Gibbs' tackle to the one Jack Viney laid on Gary Ablett earlier this year. He pointed out that Viney was not penalized because Ablett was not hurt and said Gibbs was penalized because of the outcome (Gray's injury) rather than the action itself. Former champion forwards Jason Dunstall and Jonathan Brown were in agreement with Carey that the Gibbs' tackle was legal. Brown said tackles had to be executed with force and be done quickly due to the size and strength of the players. He further defended Gibbs in saying that it was impossible for him to know where to draw the line in the heat of the moment.

Coaches Paul Roos and Nathan Buckley appeared on Fox Footy's TV show "AFL 360". Both said that while the head had to be protected, they did not want to see the AFL going overboard with the rules. Roos echoed Carey in saying that had Gray not been hurt, Gibbs would not have been suspended. Buckley, like everyone, does not want to see players injured and believes the head should be protected at all costs. He could also understand the dilemma of needing to make tackles stick and that he himself teaches his players to "tackle to the ground".

Journalist and regular on SEN's The Run Home Rohan Connolly was also of two minds, saying the penalty was probably fair but also suggested that Gibbs would have no way of knowing in a split second the consequences of his tackle. He also questioned how players could consider the "duty of care" in a game as fast-paced as Aussie Rules. He called it a Pandora's box for the AFL and the game, saying it implies that players have the time to consider the impact their physicality is going to have, but the reality is they do not. He does not envy the AFL's fine line of having to strike a correct balance between reducing the risk of serious injury and still keep the game as a physical contest.

Maguire did a final lap of honor during the Round 13 match against Adelaide.

Source: farmonline.com.au, sen.com.au (print and audio)

Article last changed on Wednesday, July 08, 2015 - 2:27 AM EDT


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