Photo: Getty Images
Retired NRL player James McManus knew the risk of concussion when he pulled on his Newcastle Knights jersey, and "voluntarily consented" to it, the club says.
The 31-year-old is suing his former club in the NSW Supreme Court, claiming repeated bumps to the head during training and matches have caused permanent brain damage.
In a statement of claim, the former NSW State of Origin winger's ongoing disabilities are listed as cognitive impairment, impairment of memory, mood swings, headaches, anxiety, depression, lethargy and sleep disturbance.
But in their defence filed in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, the Knights said the risk of harm to McManus was "obvious" and that any claim in respect of loss, injury or damage from playing the sport should be waived.
Lawyers for the Knights argue if McManus had suffered harm as alleged, it was "a result of the materialisation of an inherent risk of playing the game of rugby league".
They say McManus' injuries are partly a result of his "own failure to take reasonable care," and described rugby league as "a dangerous recreational activity".
McManus' claim outlines various serious injuries he suffered between 2012 and 2015, both in training and matches, some of which left him exhibiting clinical signs of traumatic brain injury.
After one injury, he was taken by ambulance to Royal North Shore Hospital.
However, he was directed or permitted to continue playing and for that McManus says the club breached its reasonable duty of care.
"Since at least 2001 the defendants knew, or ought to have known that requiring a player who has suffered concussive sequential head injuries to continue playing ... could produce permanent brain damage in the form of a traumatic brain injury," the court document says.
It cites a conference on concussion in sport held in Switzerland in 2012 as one example of how the club should have known about the risks.
McManus made all of his 166 NRL appearances for the Knights but his career came to a premature halt after suffering the last in a series of concussions in the round-20 loss to South Sydney in July of 2015.
He sat out the remainder of that season and didn't play again, officially announcing his retirement from the game on medical grounds in August of last year.
McManus is chasing damages, interest and costs for being "deprived of the opportunity of continuing to play rugby league both in Australia and overseas", along with the lucrative pay packets that would have come from that.
AAP - Tom Rabe and Jamie McKinnell