Waratahs and Wallaby back Berrick Barnes will take an extended break from Rugby commencing immediately. Barnes has been suffering from footballers’ migraines in recent weeks and has spent a number of weeks on the sideline this season recovering from head injuries.
After coming from the field inside the first half of Saturday’s 33-7 victory over the Highlanders at the Sydney Football Stadium, Barnes consulted with team doctor Sharron Flahive and his neurologist Professor John Watson to ascertain his immediate playing future. He has since decided to take an immediate break from Rugby, but refused to indicate the length of his stay on the sidelines.
“The medical staff has been fantastic here and we’ve been working on this for a long time,” said Barnes. “In the end it’s come down to my decision really I think it’s probably beneficial both for myself and the team that I take some time away from the game. The positive thing about this footballers’ migraine is that there shouldn’t be any long term effects, so as long as the diagnosis is 100% correct, and I’m sure it is, then I’ll be sweet.
“I haven’t put a time limit on it; it’s weeks at the moment and just how many weeks that ends up being, we’ll just have to wait and see. I’ll still be doing some form of training and gradually building that back up as time goes on, because I need to know whether I can perform that physical exertion and cop the hits, and training will form a part of that.”
Barnes said he has no doubts that his teammates can get the job done against the Brumbies on Saturday night and is urging HSBC Waratahs supporters to come out in numbers to get behind the team.
“It’s not the first time I’ve been out this year and we’ve had to adapt to losing players at different stages throughout the competition so there’s a confidence in the squad that whoever is asked to pull on the jersey will rip in and we can still get the result,” said Barnes. “This is basically the first week of the finals for us – it’s sudden death from here on in – so it’d be great to get 30,000 out at Homebush this Saturday.
“These are the matches that professional footy players love playing in. There’s everything to play for with the semis on the line and we have guys like Al Baxter, Kurtley Beale and Luke Burgess playing their last games at home. The Brumbies are also going to be coming with their A-game; they’ve got a bit of momentum now and with Matt Giteau and Adam Ashley-Cooper moving on they’ll want to finish the season on a high. It’s these type of matches that you want to be a part of so it’ll be hard being on the sidelines but I’m sure there’ll be a great atmosphere and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Head coach Chris Hickey said that the welfare of Barnes has always been the primary concern.
“In professional football there are always guys out there playing with injury, playing through pain and stepping up for their teammates, but when it comes to head injuries you need to take every precaution you can,” said Hickey. “When Berrick took a couple of head knocks against the Crusaders and Brumbies we ensured he took time off on both occasions and we’ve continued to proceed with caution as the season has unfolded
“The footballers’ migraines he’s getting are an obvious concern and his overall wellbeing needs to come first. We’ve always taken on the best medical advice and how he feels within himself has to be the prevailing factor.”
Saturday’s clash with the Brumbies is doubling as the 2011 Rugby Reunion, with fans encouraged to wear the Rugby colours of their school, club or favourite team to the game.
Qantas Wallabies coach, Robbie Deans, supported incumbent Qantas Wallabies inside centre, Berrick Barnes’ decision to take a break from Rugby for the immediate future.
Deans said the easy option would have been for Barnes to try and keep going, but it was clear, when speaking to Berrick on Monday, that he had sought the best advice and given this a great deal of thought before reaching a decision which is the best for everyone – but most importantly, for Berrick’s well-being.
“Obviously it is disappointing that he is having to take a break at this time; for the Waratahs, for the Qantas Wallabies, for his team-mates and for the fans, but I’ve no doubt that everyone understands the reasons why and totally supports the decision that he has made,” Deans said. How long Berrick is out for will determine what happens next, as far as his career is concerned, but no one will be rushing him.
“He is warmly regarded and respected within the group. It is important that Berrick takes all of the time that he needs to overcome this issue, and that he is ready both physically and mentally, before he even thinks about playing the game again. In the meantime we will all support him in any way that we can.”