‘Couldn’t think of anything worse’: Why Welch didn’t argue when pulled from Origin II

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Christian Welch has lauded Boyd Cordner for pulling himself out of the Origin series following a head knock in game one, but believes the code has some way to go in removing the "tough guy" stigma when it comes to on-field concussions.

Welch will make his return to the Origin stage next Wednesday for the decider, after the Maroons prop was ruled out of game two by a concussion in Adelaide.

Despite passing all his concussion tests post-match, Welch said the “really tough” call was made to pull him from game two following an “honest conversation” with both his club and Maroons doctor. Credit:Getty

On Friday the NRL issued the NSW Rugby League with a ‘formal warning’ over the Cordner situation.

"Every player is going to try and do what is right for the team, and not necessarily what's right for themselves," Welch said. "It's good to see some guys taking some games and resting because you've got your brain for the rest of your life – your footy career, by the time you are 30 odd, you're pretty much done."

But there's a deeper reason behind the importance Welch places on brain health. The 26-year-old was also named in the NRL's Academic Team of the Year.

Wests Tigers star Alex Twal completed a bachelor of commerce this year.

Having completed a bachelor of commerce, Welch is now completing a master's of business administration at UNSW, which has been recognised formally by the governing body.

Welch said his studies were a contributing factor to his successes this year.

"Being in the Melbourne Storm, it's intense and it's quite demanding during the week with all the preparation, video and analysis," he said. "You can get a bit weighed down … so it's good to have an outlet to switch off from footy 24/7 and I think it's really helped my performance.

"When you have the bad times, you have other things to prop you up."

Another player recognised for his academic efforts this year is Wests Tigers star Alex Twal, who completed a bachelor of commerce at the Australian Catholic University.

"I do think that having something else, even if you only spend a couple of hours a week, keeps your mind ticking," he said. "It's a no-brainer in my opinion … a really good NRL career only lasts 10-15 years."

Jamie Buhrer, who works as a player operations manager at the RLPA, said the NRL had seen a downturn in players studying this year due to the financial effects of COVID-19.

"It was a noticeable downturn on engagement," he said. "The uncertainty of the season … how their income was going to be affected, that was their general worry just like everybody else in Australia."

The NRL's senior wellbeing and education manager Paul Heptonstall said the governing body was looking to be back on track next year, after introducing the ‘no study no work no play’ rule last year.

"[COVID-19] has put in front of mind that football is not going to be forever," he said. "It's given them [players] a little snapshot of what it might look like."

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