Former NSW forward Mario Fenech has opened up the brain damage he suffered in his 15-year career as a player.
Fenech was knocked out repeatedly in his playing days with Souths and North Queensland, and now takes a drug that is used to treat dementia.
“I have no worries saying that I’ve had some problems in years gone by,” Fenech told The Sydney Morning Herald.
“I suffered significant head knocks as a player. I would’ve been knocked out eight or nine times a season. I knew that I was going to pay a price one day. But thankfully I have great people around me now.”
Fenech, who was one of the toughest players in his days in the Australian competition, said the drug has changed his life
“I’m a lot better now. I’ve travelled some hard roads, but I’m optimistic about the way my brain functions,” he said.
“Basically, I take a tablet every evening before I go to bed. What that does is provide my brain with subliminal fluid, to settle it down.
“The problem I have is irritation because of the brain injuries. Brains react in different ways. Mine gets irritated, so this settles my brain down like an anti-inflammatory. My memory is better.
Fenech is a supporter of the NRL‘s new rules on concussion, which saw Parramatta fined $20,000 for not following the procedures.
“You look at how hard-headed I was,” he said.
“”I remember getting knocked out that many times and I would never leave the field. You know why? Because I was a lunatic.
“And I was the captain, I wasn’t going anywhere and I was not leaving the field. I would stay on with concussion. Now, I wouldn’t have a choice. ‘Falcon, you’re off!’ In my era, you had a choice.
“I can understand why players resist – because I resisted. Looking back, I was extremely concerned about my health because I had suffered quite a number of brain injuries.
“I’m glad the officials of the game had the balls to make the right decisions. If you want kids to play rugby league, it’s very important that you protect the head of the player. It’s not rocket science.
“People say the game has become weak. Mate, the game is still tough enough as it is. You don’t need to hit people around the head because look what can happen. I’ve been through it. If you’ve had a head knock you should leave the field.”