McManus warns of concussion perils
Newcastle Knights winger James McManus has warned his fellow NRL players that no concussion should be taken lightly, as he announced his retirement on Wednesday morning.
At just 30 years old, the New South Wales Origin representative has spent the past year coming to terms with the premature end to his career.
McManus played 166 games for the Knights and three Origins for the NSW Blues, pulling the curtains on a career that has spanned for a decade.
The Scottish-born, Northern Territory-bred McManus opened up on what life has been like since his final game in Round 20, 2015 and the demons he has faced.
"I was really struggling. I won't lie about that. I struggled for a good six months with headaches, mood swings, and I wouldn't sleep for days," McManus said.
"I suffered plenty of confusion, short-term memory recall problems and it was something the doctors told me would take time as my brain finds new ways to do things – as long as I stopped banging my head and challenged my brain to achieve new things.
"I knew I wasn't going to play again six months ago when I received the initial diagnosis but I wanted to get a clearer picture treatment-wise and what I wanted to do before I started talking about it," he added.
"I wasn't in a good frame of mind either to make any big calls, I just needed to get better. Through the support of my wife and my kids though, it's made this decision much easier."
McManus said the NRL's concussion guidelines were there for a reason and that no player should be irked by the protocols in place to protect players during games.
"It really is important that the rules are there now to protect players because there can be some really bad side-effects that can come from head injuries," McManus said.
"Certainly though the direction the NRL has headed with it, it's changed the culture around it because there are terrible ramifications [that come with head injuries].
"There's no real research surrounding it at the moment either, which is why it took me so long to arrive at this point because I was trying to work out exactly where my brain was at and what the future held for me.
"There were things thrown at me like early-onset Alzheimer's and dementia, which makes you worry, but the research suggests that you just don't know what could happen.
"It's just important players realise that when you get tapped on the shoulder, it's for a good reason."
While it's only been a year since he last played, McManus was shocked by how much the team has changed in that time.
The Knights could have made do with the safe-as-a-house winger on the field this season, considering they've only won once all year.
"If you look at the team at the moment I've probably only played with three or four of them so it does feel like the club has gone in another direction very quickly. That's the nature of the game, it doesn't stand still for anyone," McManus said.
"I'm really excited by the new crop of young guys coming through and taking the club in a new direction. But it makes it feel like a lifetime ago since I played."
McManus will be afforded a lap of honour prior to the Knights' clash with the Panthers on Sunday afternoon.
"We might get the bagpipes going one more time," he said, with a grin.