AFL gives Pies star all-clear to resume playing career

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The AFL has cleared Collingwood key defender Nathan Murphy to resume his playing career after an examination by the league’s concussion panel.

Murphy and the Magpies had requested that the defender – a key in Collingwood’s 2023 premiership who was concussed and ruled out early in the grand final – be subjected to an assessment by the AFL’s medical concussion panel.

Teammates check on Nathan Murphy before he was subbed off in the grand final.Credit: Paul Rovere

The AFL, which had the power to rule against Murphy’s return if the panel made that recommendation, ruled that the defender could return to play. Murphy, who turned 24 last week, has suffered multiple concussions in his career, including one during Gather Round in Adelaide last year, when St Kilda’s Anthony Caminiti was suspended for three matches for striking Murphy.

The ruling comes after a meeting between Murphy and the Magpies’ board.

The decision is a boost for the Magpies, who lost Daniel McStay to a torn anterior cruciate ligament injury that will see him miss potentially all the 2024 season, and already had three vacancies on their senior list, not counting McStay, and could ill afford to lose another capable tall playing at either end.

Murphy was concussed late in the first quarter of the grand final against the Brisbane Lions and made the tough decision to rule himself out – missing three quarters – after he was initially cleared to return to the field.

Sydney’s Paddy McCartin, who had repeated concussions in his career at St Kilda and then the Swans, retired from the game this year after the AFL panel of concussion experts recommended he stop playing due to his long history of concussion, and reduce his prospects of brain trauma.

The contest that sidelined Nathan Murphy in the grand final.Credit: Seven

Collingwood’s executive general manager of football Graham Wright said: “Nathan’s health and wellbeing remains our absolute priority.

“Nathan suffered a concussion late in the first quarter of the grand final and following this incident – combined with his medical history – the club together with Nathan and his family, engaged with concussion specialists and the AFL’s medical concussion panel to assess a return to play.

“At the conclusion of this process, the AFL’s medical concussion panel determined that Nathan was able to return to playing football in the elite AFL competition.

“The health and welfare of all athletes at Collingwood remains paramount and any incidence of concussion will continue to be managed appropriately and in line with the AFL’s current concussion guidelines.”

Murphy, his parents and the club doctor all appeared before the Collingwood board last week. A Magpies statement said that “on the basis of the recommendation of the AFL medical concussion panel, recommendation of the club doctor and awareness and acceptance of risk associated with future concussions confirmed by Nathan and his parents – agreed on those bases that Nathan should be able to continue his career as a player at Collingwood”.

Collingwood have six players training with the club in the hope of securing one or two of the three vacancies on their list, with the Magpies likely to hold one position for the mid-season draft.

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