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Australian rugby league player dies after tackle

Grant Cook was playing for the Murwillumbah Mustangs in a regional New South Wales game.

The father-of-two was playing on Sunday when he fell ill.
The father-of-two was playing on Sunday when he fell ill.
Image: PA Archive/Press Association Images

AN AUSTRALIAN RUGBY league player has died after collapsing following a tackle, police and officials said Monday, just over a year after another player died in similar circumstances.

Father-of-two Grant Cook was playing for the Murwillumbah Mustangs in a regional New South Wales game against Casino Cougars on Sunday when he was taken ill.

As sports around the world grapple with the growing problem of head injuries, New South Wales police said a report on the death of the 28-year-old would be prepared for the coroner.

“Police have been informed that the man collapsed shortly after being tackled during the match,” a statement said, without detailing his injuries.

Attempts were made at the scene to revive the unconscious player before he was airlifted to Gold Coast University Hospital in a critical condition and passed away overnight.

Brian Rix, president of the Northern Rivers Regional Rugby League, said Cook had left the field just before half-time.

At first there was “no indication it was anything major”, he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, but said Cook then had “some sort of fit or convulsion” and needed CPR.

“He had to leave the field because he didn’t feel great, he sat on the bench before he started to feel even worse,” he said.

“When the half-time break came, we knew then it was quite serious. He must’ve copped a knock or something, we have no idea.

“They had to do CPR on him, he did stop breathing for a while and they revived him, then the ambulance turned up.”

On her Facebook page, Cook’s wife Colleen said she had been left with “a huge hole in my heart”.

“You died doing something you loved so passionately, and I guess that’s how I have to look at it,” she wrote, The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

“You finally got to wear that number 6 jersey before the season was out too. I always did say I would love you forever and a day. And you know I will.”

League authorities said players from both teams would be offered counselling after the sudden death, which comes after a Queensland player died from a head injury sustained in a match in Brisbane.

In June 2015, Sunshine Coast Falcons front-row forward James Ackerman, a 25-year-old father-of-two, suffered a head injury in a tackle during a Queensland Cup match against the Norths Devils and later died in hospital.

The previous month two other players, aged 15 and 29, had died after playing rugby league in regional New South Wales.

Australian rugby league officials have tried to take a firm line with head injuries in recent years, insisting players be sidelined if concussed.

On Sunday, the United States’ National Football League said it was looking into the response by medical personnel to multiple blows to the head suffered by Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in a season-opening loss at Denver.

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