Former Geelong player Max Rooke, the lead plaintiff in the new AFL concussion class action, was concussed up to 30 times in his career and lost consciousness at least twice, according to court documents.

The writ for the class action, which has been lodged in the Victorian Supreme Court, refers to lead plaintiff Rooke — formerly known as Jarad Maxwell Rooke — as a former Geelong player who played 135 games for the Cats between 2002 and 2010.

He became a dual premiership player in 2007 and 2009.

Rooke was a cult football figure at Geelong, with a distinctive grown-out beard and hair.

Along with his wild-man look, he became known for his fearless, physical play in defence or further up the ground and generally being hard at the ball.

His physical approach also led him to be suspended on several occasions for rough conduct due to delivering hard bumps on the field.

The class action alleges that Rooke suffered “permanent, life-altering injuries” as a result of concussions.

The court documents state that Rooke suffered a series of concussions during his training and playing career for Geelong:

“Insofar as the plaintiff [Rooke] can say, [he was concussed] on approximately 20 to 30 occasions, including head strikes causing unconsciousness on at least two occasions.”

The writ mentions a timeline of medical knowledge regarding head injuries and concussions in sport, listing times from when the league could reasonably have been aware of various risks to players.

“At all relevant times … the defendant knew or ought to have known:

a) of the potential long-term consequences of concussion suffered by AFL players while training for and playing AFL football

b) of the need to make and enforce rules reasonably designed so as to mitigate consequences of long-term injury arising from concussion

According to the lawsuit, the applicable standard of care required the defendant to take reasonable steps to:

(a) inform itself regarding the risks of concussion to players, in line with the state of medical knowledge from time to time

(b) make rules, policies, procedures, and protocols applicable to clubs and players reasonably designed so as to mitigate, ameliorate, and reduce the risk of long-term injury arising from repetitive minor head strikes, and concussion

(c) ensure clubs abided by the rules, policies, and procedures in matches, in training and in directing players.

(d) provide information regarding the risk of long-term injury arising from repetitive mild head strikes and concussion to clubs and players

The AFL, the writ says, “breached the duty owed to the plaintiff”. This breach of duty had resulted in injury, loss and damage to Rooke, including closed head injury, cognitive impairment and “associated psychiatric injury”.

The action takes in people who played for AFL clubs between 1985 and March 14, 2023.

The scope of the action also takes in representatives of the estates of players now dead, who played during the relevant time period. 

The class action will seek damages, interest and costs on behalf of Rooke and the other group members.