A decision on the playing future of Wests Tigers forward Liam Fulton is expected to be made this week after the 29-year-old receives the results of extensive testing in Melbourne to determine the effects of repeated concussions this season.
Fulton has already decided to stand down from playing for the remainder of this season and his career is in doubt after failing to finish four of the six matches he has played due to concussion. He has been rested for the match following each incident, including the Tigers clash with Souths on June 13 after again being concussed in the previous weekend's 23-20 defeat of Newcastle.
Of most concern is the regularity with which Fulton has been concussed this season and the ease with which the latest concussion occured after minimal contact in a tackle by Knights prop David Fa'alogo. The long-serving Tigers utility underwent tests in Sydney after the incident and travelled to Melbourne last week for more extensive tests in a bid to decide whether he needs to hang up his boots or can resume playing next season.
The results of those tests are due back early this week and Fulton will then consult with medical experts, club officials and his family about his long-term playing future. Under the terms of the collective bargaining agreement between the NRL and the Rugby League Players Association, Fulton is guaranteed to be paid for the remainder of his contract with the Tigers, which expires in 2016.
However, he would have to forego any plans to finish his career in Super League after enjoying a stint with Huddersfield in 2009. The loss of Fulton would be a blow to the Tigers but coach Mick Potter and chief executive Grant Mayer have shown by the way they have handled the issue this season that their No.1 priority is his health and welfare. Fulton has said that he was not suffering any lingering effects from the latest concussion but his wife Stacey is understandably concerned.
Tigers officials have been in talks with the NRL about future career options for Fulton should he be forced into retirement. If that was to occur, Fulton could effectively become the poster boy for the NRL's strict new guidelines on concussion as there is little doubt he would have played on in previous seasons. The Tigers were fined A$20,000, of which A$10,000 was suspended, for not removing Fulton from the field for a concussion assessment in their round-five match against Manly, but unsuccessfully contested the NRL's decision.
Fulton has played 161 matches for the Tigers in two stints, from 2003 to 2008 and 2010 until now, and was a member of the club's 2005 premiership-winning team. He is also one of the most popular players in the NRL and is a renowned prankster off the field.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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