Leeds Rhinos' Morgan Gannon gives concussion update, outlines return plan, makes 'bigger, stronger' pledge

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Sidelined Leeds Rhinos forward Morgan Gannon has given a first insight into his year-long layoff and why he expects to come back bigger and stronger.

Gannon missed the 2022 Betfred Super League Grand Final after being concussed in Leeds’ play-off win at Catalans Dragons. He had a long spell on the sidelines with a similar issue last year and then failed head injury assessments during both his warm-up matches for the current campaign, in December and February.

In May Rhinos confirmed the second-rower will not play a competitive game this year, though he is training with the team. Speaking publicly for the first time since that announcement, Gannon revealed he is “feeling pretty good now” and already gearing up for a big season in 2025.

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“I am four or five months in now,” he said. “I had the first month or so to address it and put a plan together for how we are going to make this six months-ish the most productive it can be.

Morgan Gannon leaves the field after being concussed in Leeds Rhinos' play-off win at Catalans Dragons two years ago. Picture by Manuel Blondeau/SWpix.com.Morgan Gannon leaves the field after being concussed in Leeds Rhinos' play-off win at Catalans Dragons two years ago. Picture by Manuel Blondeau/SWpix.com.
Morgan Gannon leaves the field after being concussed in Leeds Rhinos' play-off win at Catalans Dragons two years ago. Picture by Manuel Blondeau/SWpix.com.

“I had that time to be annoyed at it and stuff like that, but now I’ve moved on and I am looking at how I can make the most of this time I’ve got. Obviously it is disappointing, but if I spent the full year moping it would be a long year so I am just trying to put that behind me and rip into training.”

Gannon is able to do everything in training other than contact. He explained: “I am in full training, with the non-contact bib on. I am fully fit with running, doing gym and everything like that. It’s just not wrestling sessions, but I am doing everything on the field at the same intensity as I normally would be.”

Now 20, Gannon joined Rhinos’ senior squad straight from the club’s scholarship and made his first team debut in 2021. It was a whirlwind progression and he accepted: “When I came into the first team I definitely wasn’t physically ready.

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“I am probably buying that time back now, being able to put a bit more size on and actually be in a Super League player’s body. They are the positives I am looking at. I played 11 games last year so I had some time then to do some work on the physical stuff and hopefully in the long run I will reap the rewards of this rest now.”

Morgan Gannon is recovering from concussion suffered in pre-season and won't pull on a Leeds Rhinos jersey in a competitive game this year. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.Morgan Gannon is recovering from concussion suffered in pre-season and won't pull on a Leeds Rhinos jersey in a competitive game this year. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
Morgan Gannon is recovering from concussion suffered in pre-season and won't pull on a Leeds Rhinos jersey in a competitive game this year. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

He added: “I am symptom-free, I’ve not had any issues with this most recent concussion. It’s just the fact they don’t want me to be exposed to another one within this six months. The only way they can monitor that is by restricting my contact.

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“It is still a bit of a grey area with concussion and there’s not too much they know about it so I think it is protecting me in the long-run and doing as much as they can with the knowledge they have to put me in the best position for life after rugby as well.

“When I spoke to the specialist, the important bit I took away from it is your brain doesn’t fully develop until 24, so if you are damaging it before then you can get delayed effects after your career. He said ‘if you were in this position and you were 30 years old, it probably wouldn’t be as long a layoff because your brain has developed’.

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Leeds Rhinos' James Bentley has not played since March because of concussion, but could be back on the field this month. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.Leeds Rhinos' James Bentley has not played since March because of concussion, but could be back on the field this month. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.
Leeds Rhinos' James Bentley has not played since March because of concussion, but could be back on the field this month. Picture by Allan McKenzie/SWpix.com.

“That was when reality hit, that I’ve had so many and I am only 20. It is not going to be the worst thing to just give my brain some time. Hopefully next year I can put all this behind me and move on and it is seen as a kind of circuit-breaker year where I’ve had the time to let my brain heal. There shouldn’t be an issue moving forward.”

Head injuries have been a recurring theme for Rhinos this year. Tom Holroyd is back on the casualty list after suffering concussion in his first game following two months out with a similar issue, James Bentley hasn’t played since failing a head injury assessment in March and Andy Ackers, Ash Handley and Harry Newman have all had a recent layoff.

“Four lads got done in the same game so at one point we had seven players stood down with concussion,” Gannon noted. “It is just unfortunate really, there is no other way of explaining it.”

The plan for Gannon is to be back in full contact training from the start of pre-season. “I might be doing some stuff during the off-season to build my contact back up,” he said. “But as of pre-season I should be good to go.”

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