Independent doctor will impact NRL finals: Bennett

Wayne Bennett has warned the NRL's independent doctor system could have a negative impact on the finals series, calling for the bunker to stop grading head knocks from afar.

Bennett's Dolphins lost Connelly Lemuelu, Kenny Bromwich and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow to game-ending head knocks as they went down to the Sydney Roosters 30-14 on Saturday night

They activated their 18th man but finished without any fit players on the bench after Felise Kaufusi (hamstring) and Tabuai-Fidow joined Jeremy Marshall-King (shoulder) in the casualty ward late.

The spate of injuries left Bennett ruminating on the independent doctor system introduced last season.

Since last March, the bunker's independent doctor has been able to instruct the on-field referee to remove players from the field for head injury assessment.

The independent doctor can also rule that a player is exhibiting category-one symptoms so must not return to play, nor participate in contact training or games for 11 days.

In the case of less serious, category-two symptoms, the club's doctor on the sidelines determines whether the player can return to the field.

The system was introduced over fears clubs could use free concussion substitutions to gain a tactical advantage if left to their own devices.

But it has faced criticism from within rugby league circles, notably for implying that club doctors would wilfully cover up head knocks and for the fact the independent doctor reviews footage from afar.

Bennett has previously called for clubs to take responsibility for managing concussions in-house.

He renewed his push for a new system on Saturday, pointing to examples from the loss to the Roosters and the Dolphins' round-22 clash with Canterbury in Bundaberg.

"The bunker shouldn't be giving us what grading the player is," Bennett said.

"Hamiso gets graded by the bunker referee as a grade two (against the Roosters) but when he's assessed by our doctor he's a grade one.

"Certainly for all intents and purposes, he can tell us to take someone off the field

"But we had Connelly in Bundaberg in the first seven minutes of the game, got pulled off by the bunker referee and the bunker referee said he was a grade one.

"When he was assessed he was a grade two. In fact, he didn't have any concussion at all. But he couldn't go back on the field.

"It's not good enough."

This year's finals series will be the first with the mandatory 11-day stand-down policy in place for category-one concussions.

While teams are able to have gradings overturned on appeal, Bennett warned the current system could have ramifications in the finals.

"We're going into the best part of the season and these things are going to have a huge impact on teams," he said.

Bennett confirmed Marshall-King's shoulder injury would prevent him from featuring in the Dolphins' final three games this season.

"It was a bad night (of injuries) but our effort was outstanding," he said of the loss to the Roosters.