Peter FitzSimons hits back at NRL great James Graham over ‘parasite’ attack

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Former Wallaby Peter FitzSimons has hit back at James Graham in a fiery column after the rugby league great slammed him as a “parasite” for publicly calling for James Tedesco to retire.

Graham unleashed on the outspoken columnist earlier this week during a segment on his podcast The Bye Round, where he declared FitzSimons had no right to pressure the Roosters fullback into retiring after he copped the 10th concussion of his career the previous weekend.

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The fiery outburst became the latest chapter in a long-running feud between the two over concussion in the NRL and specifically whether athletes with histories of concussion should retire early.

On Saturday, FitzSimons responded to Graham’s attack by refusing to back down from his stance and push to make the game safer in the long run.

“I write something based on concussion in sport, saying it’s serious and not to be trifled with,” FitzSimons wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald.

“The footballers rant back that these are their brains, and they’ll damage them as much as they like.

“What his (Graham’s) overall position is on concussion, I have no clue.

“Certainly, he was originally the exemplar of saying it was all nothing (during his career). But then, after retirement, he suddenly shifted to saying it was serious after all.”

He added, in regards to Graham calling him a “parasite” that: “As a parasite I must be a very small one, and a pretty irrelevant one, as writing on concussion these days – as serious as I am on it – would be no more than half-of-one per cent of my output, if that.”

Legend tears 'parasite' journo to shreds

FitzSimons once again touched on the Tedesco topic and stated that the NRL star must consider the long-term ramifications of the concussions he has suffered.

“Tedesco had three concussions in his first decade of playing. He’s had seven in the past three years. That may not alarm James Graham, but it seriously alarms the concussion specialists I have consulted,” he wrote.

Of course he couldn’t help but deliver some subtle shots back at Graham and his commentary work, which – as FitzSimons puts it – only gains traction when he calls out the 62-year-old.

“I think he is working somewhere as a commentator of some sort but, also very sadly, he only seems to make headlines when ranting on concussion, usually at me,” he wrote.

“This will no doubt generate another rant from James. So be it. It will at least help keep him relevant as a commentator, I guess, as his sole point of difference from other recently retired footballers.”

FitzSimons’ response is the latest chapter in the feud between the two which commenced in 2022 when the former Wallaby challenged Graham’s stance on the topic during a public Concussion Legacy Foundation forum event.

Graham said afterwards he was “astonished” that FitzSimons attempted to make the discussion “about me and him”.

The fire was reignited when the 62-year-old suggested Roosters captain James Tedesco should consider retiring after he was knocked unconscious against the Bulldogs in round 5.

“James Tedesco, can I have a quiet word,” FitzSimons wrote for the Sydney Morning Herald.

“We’ve met only once — not that I expect you to remember — but I have watched you for years and know you are a great player. I know one of the defining features of great players is the belief they are bulletproof. But, mate, you need to think about this very, very carefully.”

The column clearly incensed Graham, who announced FitzSimons as the “Idiot of the Week” on his James Graham’s The Bye Round podcast released on Thursday morning.

“I’ve had a couple run-ins with this person in the past. It’s Peter FitzSimons,” Graham said.

The 38-year-old went on to say: “It really struck a nerve. I know – and Peter mentions in the article about how this will draw flak from the usual suspects – it’s drawn flak from me because it’s the behaviour of a parasite.

“Nothing less than the behaviour of a parasite. Now for those that don’t know what a parasite means, it needs a host to stay alive. And this type of behaviour is using our game and the very serious nature of concussion in order to stay relevant or alive.

“That’s what a parasite would do.”

FitzSimons has long called out concussion issues in contact sports, including calling for the retirements of the likes of Boyd Cordner in 2020 and more recently Luke Keary, who is still playing for the Roosters despite long stretches out of the game after head injuries.

Cordner retired at 29 as a result of his concussion issues.

Concussion has become a massive issue in Australian sport with countless retired athletes having been found with evidence of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) which is believed to be caused by repeated blows to the head.

Although only able to be diagnosed after death, the disease can include symptoms such as short-term memory loss, changes in mood including depression, and outbursts in anger, and confusion and disorientation.