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Decision on Pucovski's future delayed after extended concussion symptoms

Victoria received special extension from Cricket Australia on Pucovski's contract as his playing future is to be decided by a medical panel in coming weeks

Alex Malcolm
Alex Malcolm
Will Pucovski took a nasty blow on the helmet, Tasmania vs Victoria, Sheffield Shield, Hobart, March 3, 2024

Will Pucovski was still suffering concussion symptoms six weeks after being hit  •  Getty Images

A decision on Will Pucovski's playing future has been delayed with Victoria receiving a special exemption from Cricket Australia (CA) on his state contract after his assessment with a medical panel was pushed back due to the fact he had suffered extended symptoms from his latest concussion in March.
Cricket Victoria (CV) finally released their contract list on Friday after weeks of delays, which included new signing Josh Brown from Queensland, but Pucovski's name has an asterisk next to it. The 26-year-old came out of contract last season and his playing future is yet to be determined due to his latest concussion.
Victoria has offered Pucovski a contract for 2024-25 but has received an exemption from CA to withhold committing to that contract until after he has been assessed by a joint medical panel which will comprise CV, CA and independent medical experts. The panel is being convened to assess his situation and map out his future due to the alarming number of concussions he has had in his career so far. The assessment with the panel has been delayed because Pucovski was still suffering concussion symptoms six weeks on from his latest hit in March, although those symptoms are understood to have finally eased.
Pucovski was hit in the head in his last Sheffield Shield match on March 3 when he ducked into a bouncer from Riley Meredith in Victoria's clash with Tasmania in Hobart. That blow ended his Australian domestic season and saw him withdraw from his county championship stint with Leicestershire.
It is understood Pucovski's symptoms have improved in recent weeks but there has been serious concern over how long the symptoms lasted after the blow in March. He could not convene with the panel until his symptoms had fully subsided. That is now likely to happen in the coming weeks and a decision on his future will be made after that.
Victoria's general manager of cricket performance Graham Manou confirmed that Pucovski would be offered a contract but that it was contingent on medical advice.
"Understandably there will be a lot of interest in Will Pucovski and what the future holds," Manou said. "The most important part of this process is Will, and his health and wellbeing. Cricket Victoria is working closely with Cricket Australia and the expert medical panel that is due to meet soon to review Will's history. We'll take the advice from that panel on the appropriate way forward this season."
If Pucovski cannot continue playing it is understood there will be significant injury compensation for him and support services available via CV and CA but he will not be formally contracted within Victoria's domestic salary cap.
There were hopes earlier this year that Pucovski might be returning to his best form after scoring a century against New South Wales at the SCG, re-igniting the possibility of adding to his lone Test appearance. There was optimism from Pucovski too that he had a better understanding of how his concussions and mental-health issues were linked.
"I sort of link the mental-health stuff back to my first concussion...which was when I was about 15 or 16," Pucovski had told the Vic State Cricket podcast in February. "I have a lot of concussion symptoms that over a seven or eight year period, actually never subsided.
"You just sort of got used to having them in a way. The brain's pretty amazing and can find ways to adapt. I would fail concussion tests in the exact same way every single time, regardless of whether I had been hit in the head, and that was over a seven or eight year period.
"The mental health has been a much bigger issue for me than even the concussions.
"I don't fear for my long-term health, it's more the mental-health side that's been the tougher part.
"One day I'll be ready to tell my whole story and it will probably make a lot more sense. I've explained what I've been through to my inner circle of people and actually all the responses I've got have been like 'Jesus, I would never have guessed that in a million years, that doesn't even make sense to me'.
"It hasn't made sense to me for years, either, but I've been on this pathway to understand it all."
Victoria's contract list featured some new faces after some recent departures. Nic Maddinson has headed back to NSW for family reasons while Shield-winning captain Travis Dean has not been offered a contract after his place in the side last season. Legspinner Wil Parker has also lost his contract.
That has opened the door for Brown to be included after he recently signed with Melbourne Renegades in the BBL. Brown will add some dynamism to Victoria's Marsh Cup side after making his first appearance in List A cricket for Queensland late last season following his stunning finish to the BBL.
Victoria have also added Australia Under-19 World Cup winner Harry Dixon onto the rookie list. Dixon was close to earning a contract last year after his excellent performances at Under-19 level. Fellow left-hander Dylan Brasher has been given a full contract after making 79 not out against Pakistan in a tour match last year and producing strong performances at Second XI level for Victoria and an excellent Premier Cricket season for his club side Footscray.
Victoria were frustrated to lose young quick Brody Couch to Western Australia after offering him a contract.
Victorian contract list 2024-2025: Liam Blackford, Scott Boland (CA contract), Dylan Brasher, Josh Brown, Ashley Chandrasinghe, Xavier Crone, Sam Elliott, Peter Handscomb, Sam Harper, Marcus Harris, Campbell Kellaway, Glenn Maxwell (CA), Cameron McClure, Jono Merlo, Todd Murphy (CA), Fergus O'Neill, Mitch Perry, Will Pucovski (pending medical advice), Tom Rogers, Matt Short, Peter Siddle, Will Sutherland, Douglas Warren

Alex Malcolm is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo