Former Richmond player Ty Zantuck has won his bid in the Victorian Supreme Court to sue the club for compensation over debilitating back and brain injuries.
The 68-game Tiger sued Richmond and two doctors, current Tigers doctor Greg Hickey and ex-doctor Chris Bradshaw, alleging they did not treat his injuries properly throughout his playing career between 2000 and 2004, and that he was allowed to train and play despite repeated head knocks.
Justice Mary-Jane Ierodiaconou found the alleged conduct of the Tigers was “egregious” and left Zantuck’s “life crippled”, granting an extension for him to bring the lawsuit. Typically there is a time limit, often six years, for personal injury claims.
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“Mr Zantuck’s loss arising from the alleged injuries is substantial,” she ruled.
“His evidence is that as a consequence of pain arising from his back injury, he has been unable to work in a stable job save for a six-month period in 2009. This has placed him in financial distress. Mr Zantuck’s back pain is such that he uses a spinal stimulator.”
Zantuck claimed he received more than 20 epidurals plus dozens of local anaesthetic injections during his playing career.
He spent the 2005 season at Essendon, playing nine games, but the Bombers were not willing to give him more epidurals which saw Zantuck question the Tigers’ actions.
Last September he was diagnosed with traumatic encephalopathy syndrome, indicating a likelihood of progressive brain disease chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), which can only be diagnosed after death.
“I’m still traumatised by the whole thing,” Zantuck said during a previous hearing.
“I still love the Richmond Football Club, my two sons barrack for them.
“I just think they got the treatment horribly wrong.”
Zantuck’s agent and player welfare advocate Peter Jess told The Age the decision was “the AFL’s worst nightmare”.
“It could lead to more cases by former players,” Jess said.
“This is a landmark decision for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it recognises Ty is an employee of Richmond, which then means it addresses the issues in the Agar v Hyde duty of care court case which has been the moat for the AFL.
“Up until now, the defence was that you, as a player, knew it was a dangerous sport, so you knew what you were getting into.
“The two exceptions were that if you were an employee and if there was negligence. It’s now been found Ty was an employee, so he can be the first player to take action this way.”