Former footy player files $1.4m claim for injuries

Liam Cullen is visited by family while undergoing treatment in the brain injury rehabilitation unit at the Princess Alexandra Hospital.
Liam Cullen is visited by family while undergoing treatment in the brain injury rehabilitation unit at the Princess Alexandra Hospital. Contributed

A FORMER rugby league player who suffered a brain injury in a head-high tackle is suing a regional club for $1.4 million, but more than that, he wants to spark a conversation.

Liam Cullen was halfback for St George when, in a match almost three years ago against Cities Rugby League Football Club, made a run for the try line in the second half.

Mr Cullen claims that Roma Cities player Alby Tardent then "swung his right arm at him making contact directly" with Mr Cullen's head.

The "swinging arm tackle" caused Mr Cullen to lose consciousness and he was later airlifted from St George to the Princess Alexandra Hospital where he was transferred to the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Unit.

In the $1.4m civil case filed in the Brisbane Supreme Court Monday, lawyers for Mr Cullen allege the swinging arm tackle was "intentional" and "in breach of the playing rules of rugby league".

Mr Tardent and Cities Rugby League are named as first and second defendants to the suit.

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Shine Lawyers special counsel Nick Hart said Mr Cullen suffered a traumatic closed head and brain injury which has caused him ongoing cognitive problems including mood swings, depression and issues with co-ordination and balance.

The claim seeks to recover past and future losses to the amount of $1.4 million, but it was the weekend match in which Melbourne Storm star Billy Slater was knocked unconscious by a late tackle which triggered Mr Cullen to push for greater discussions about the rules of the game.

"Our client was watching the game and the tackle really sent a shiver down his spine," Mr Hart said.

"Liam doesn't want to see this happen to anyone else.

"He's had a long road to recovery; he spent 25 days in hospital and has been in and out of the brain injury rehab unit for the past three years.

"This is not the legacy we want for people who play this game for our entertainment."

Mr Hart said Mr Cullen wanted the NRL to review how it dealt with on-field incidents and develop preventative strategies.

"Play hard but play fair - if you play within the rules then the risk of injury is lessened," Mr Hart said.

"There are clearly issues with the system that need to be looked at.

"We hope the league takes this opportunity to have a meaningful discussion about the huge consequences illegal tackles can have for players."

Mr Tardent and Cities Rugby League have been contacted for comment, and have not yet filed a defence to the claim.

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