The widow of a footballer who took his own life last year has the AFL in her sights as the code stands accused of attempting to influence a pending investigation into his death.
Former Richmond midfielder Shane Tuck, 38, committed suicide last July, leaving behind his wife Katherine and two children, Will and Ava.
Subsequent post-mortem examinations revealed Tuck had a severe case of the degenerative brain disease Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), likely stemming from his playing days with the Tigers.
With the AFL looking to remove respected Coroner Simon McGregor from the pending investigation, lawyers representing Katherine Tuck have accused the league of ‘forum shopping.’
Former Richmond AFL star Shane Tuck committed suicide in July last year aged just 38, with a series of brain injuries stemming from his playing days said to have been a significant factor
Shane Tuck was living a ‘tormented, hell on earth life’ after retiring from the sport in 2013, according to his sister
‘The death of her late husband has had an overwhelming effect upon both herself and her family,’ lawyer Greg Griffin said.
‘And in our view, the application made by the solicitors for the AFL is misconceived, indeed entirely without merit, and should be rejected.’
Forum shopping is the practice of choosing a court or jurisdiction that will give a party a preferred outcome in a dispute, according to the Herald Sun.
The centre of the dispute between Mrs Tuck and the AFL stems from the fact that Simon McGregor’s brother, Matthew McGregor, acts as a psychologist with the AFL Players’ Association.
Simon McGregor acknowledged his sibling had referred Tuck for medical appointments during his playing career – before adding he never personally treated him.
Lawyers for the AFL stated the sibling relationship of the McGregor’s could ‘serve to undermine public confidence in the Coronial process in this important case’ before stressing the importance of introducing a ‘independent and impartial mind to this investigation.’
The code have requested a different Coroner for the inquest into Tuck’s death.
Earlier this month, Mr McGregor voiced his concerns over the ‘genuine risk of profound lifetime injury in a profit-motivated workplace featuring a high turnover of young people’.
On March 9 at a directions hearing, McGregor revealed the AFL’s current concussion rules would be scrutinised as part of his coronial investigation.
Meanwhile, speaking on Channel 9’s 60 Minutes on Sunday, Renee Tuck revealed her sibling Shane was living a ‘tormented, hell on earth life’ after retiring from the sport in 2013.
‘He started becoming very confused. He was getting a bit vague and sometimes you would have to ask him things three times and that’s where it really started snowballing,’ she said.
‘You would look at him and know he was leaving us, slowly. He was broken and he was being ravaged and tormented and traumatised every day of his life.’
One time Richmond stat Shane Tuck (left) with his father, champion Hawthorn footballer Michael Tuck
Tuck also boxed professionally from 2015-2017 after hanging up his footy boots, with his time in the ring possibly contributing to his brain injury.
CTE – which can only be diagnosed after death – is linked to mood and behavioural changes as well as memory impairment.
Fellow AFL legends Graham Farmer and Danny Frawley were also diagnosed with CTE after they died.
Frawley passed away in suspected deliberate car crash in rural Victoria in September 2019 after a long battle with his mental health.
The long term effects of concussion in contact sports were a source of ongoing debate, with authorities trying to strike a balance in their regulations between protecting players and maintaining the appeal of the sports.
Sydney Roosters rugby league back-rower Boyd Cordner has been ‘rested’ by his club until at least June this year following repeated concussions in 2020, and teammate Jake Friend may have to retire from the NRL after repeated head knocks.
An image of Shane Tuck’s brain showing the blunt trauma from his footy playing days
NRL star Jake Friend (pictured with partner Jenna Kallin) faces an uncertain future in the sport after suffering three concussions in six months
Already a father with another child on the way, those close to Friend are privately concerned about his ongoing physical and mental state.
He is currently sidelined indefinitely after his third concussion injury in six months following his team’s NRL season opener against Manly earlier this month.
In disturbing scenes at the Sydney Cricket Ground, Friend, described as a ‘warrior’ by his coach Trent Robinson, was left convulsing on the field after a collision with Sea Eagles forward Andrew Davey.
Concerned trainers quickly escorted Friend off the paddock, with his playing future still up in the air.
In the AFL, former No.1 draft pick Paddy McCartin was forced to step away from the game due to a succession of concussions, and is now trying to make a comeback with Sydney.
The AFL introduced a rule on the eve of the 2021 season allowing for an extra substitute to be named and able to replace any player with symptoms of concussion to prevent teams keeping them on the field so as not to be disadvantaged.
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Signs and symptoms of concussion
*Loss of consciousness after impact
*Confusion, disorientation, loss of coordination or balance
*Dazed or vacant stare
*Headaches, neck pain, feeling pressure in the head
*Blurred vision, dizziness
*Nausea or vomiting
*Irritability, feeling more emotional, nervous or anxious
Source: Australian Medical Association