find the latest legal job
Corporate and Commercial Partner
Category: Corporate and Commercial Law | Location: Adelaide SA 5000
· Adelaide CBD · Join a leading Adelaide commercial law firm
View details
Freelance Project Finance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Australia
· Vario are looking for freelance lawyers with experience in project finance ideally within the renewable energy sector
View details
Vario Freelance Lawyers
Category: Construction Law | Location: All Australia
· We are looking for lawyers who appreciate the endless possibilities that a freelance career can offer.
View details
Freelance Construction Lawyers
Category: Construction Law | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· We are looking for construction lawyers who appreciate the endless possibilities that a freelance career can offer.
View details
Banking Associate - 1-6PQE - Allen & Overy
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: United Kingdom
· Banking Associate - 1-6 PQE - Allen & Overy
View details
Shoulder charge case to test the waters

Shoulder charge case to test the waters

Tim Fuller McInnes Wilson

A landmark lawsuit by former NRL player Michael Greenfield could have significant legal ramifications for the game, Tim Fuller writes.

Former NRL player Michael Greenfield is taking legal action after having his career curtailed in 2012 by a shoulder charge from former NRL player Ben Te’o. Greenfield had a history of neck injuries and the incident involving Te’o resulted in further injury that required neck surgery. Greenfield did not play again following the surgery and the NRL banned the shoulder charge as a form of legitimate tackling approximately six months later.

In the past, the Courts have proven to be generally reluctant to find organising or governing bodies negligent for sporting injuries. Accordingly, players who have suffered injury as a result of a negligent act on the football field must take action against the correct defendant in their pursuit of compensation.

In rugby league, there have been a number of historical cases involving players taking action against opposition players for negligent acts. In McCracken v Melbourne Storm Rugby League Club and Kearney and Bai (2005), Jarrod McCracken famously sued his opposition players and their club for having his career ended prematurely with a dangerous ‘spear’ tackle.

With Greenfield, it is a little more unusual to take action against the governing body. In rugby union, there have been several cases where players who have suffered neck injuries have attempted to sue bodies such as the New South Wales Rugby Union and International Rugby Football Board for breach of a duty of care. In these cases, the Courts held that the rugby bodies did not have actual ‘control’ of the game when the injury occurred.

In addition, the Courts recognised that football is a contact sport and carries a significant degree of risk that players are aware of when participating in the game. Importantly though, Green v Australian Rugby Football League (2003) confirmed that a rule-making body does owe a duty of care to participants in a competition under the bodies administration.

Undoubtedly, players in the NRL are aware of the inherent risk that comes with playing in the toughest competition in the world. The players lining up each week in the NRL know how physical each contest will be and the risks that come with playing an intense sport. Therefore, with that in mind, where does this leave Michael Greenfield and his claim?

In my opinion, it may well prove to be that a legal case in another part of the world and in a different sport could prove significant. The NFL concussion litigation in the United States highlighted the role that a governing body can play in protecting (or not) the safety and welfare of a participant in a sport.

The underlying issue in Greenfield’s claim could be whether the authorities acted swiftly enough to ensure that foreseeable injury was prevented. If it can be proved that the sport did not take all necessary steps to avoid the risk of unnecessary harm to the players, then this case could have serious ramifications for the sport.

In a tough game with tough men, the importance of player welfare cannot ever be discounted. The NRL have put acted promptly and responsibly in many aspects concerning player welfare – replacement rules, blood bin rule, concussion rule and more. This case may show whether they acted prudently enough to ban the shoulder charge and the consequences of this form of contact.

Tim Fuller is an associate at McInnes Wilson Lawyers.

Like this story? Read more:

Book commemorates diamond milestone for WA law society

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

Shoulder charge case to test the waters
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Disrupting traditional archiving and storage methods
Promoted by File Pro TRENDS COME and go but technology and its disruption to the legal landscape ...
Scales of Justice
WA to close ‘legal loophole’ on gender reassignment laws
Laws in Western Australia will soon change to permit married people to undergo gender reassignment s...
Lawyers take to Twitter to share career stories
Jan 22 2018
Lawyers take to Twitter to share career stories
The #mypathtolaw hashtag has been embraced by legal eagles to swap stories with the Twitter communit...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...