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Once a Test roommate with Jharal Yow Yeh, Dragons winger Brett Morris is doing his best to prepare for life after footy. Copyright: Wayne Drought/NRL Photos
Brett Morris knows that footy doesn't last forever; that's why he is currently studying Commerce at the University of Wollongong.

He's had his fair share of surgeries since making his NRL debut in 2006 - he played just two games in 2007 due to shoulder surgery - but having played more than 20 games for St George Illawarra in each of the past five seasons, Morris is one of the lucky ones to have managed to keep a good distance between themselves and the rehab group.

Against the Sharks on Saturday night Morris has the opportunity to become just the third player in St George Illawarra history to score 100 tries but if he needed any further proof of how quickly a career in rugby league can be taken away from you, the retirement this week of Jharal Yow Yeh at just 24 years of age once again shone a blazing spotlight on the fragility of careers experienced by many elite athletes.

In 2011 Yow Yeh made his Origin debut for Queensland opposite Morris and the pair roomed together when Yow Yeh made his Test debut against New Zealand also that year but the almost inevitable end was still a confronting one.

"The injury that occurred [in 2012] was pretty horrific. When you're watching those sorts of things you don't wish that upon anyone, especially a wonderful talent like Jharal," said Morris.

"When the injury first occurred I just hoped that he'd be able to get back on the paddock. He was a wonderful player and he was at the top of his game when he got injured so it's a shame we didn't get to see him play again.

"He was one of the most exciting players in the game [in 2011]. I was lucky enough to room with him for his first Test so I knew him a bit more than the other blokes did in that side. He was a good kid, he had his head switched on and every time he went out there and played he played his best game of footy and I know playing against him in Origin he was always a very tough opponent.

"He always brought out the best in me and he was always a very tough competitor and some I really enjoyed playing against."

While he insists that the potential of serious injury never enters his head as he soars high in the air endeavouring to catch cross-field kicks or towering bombs, Morris is planning for a life after football through his studies.

Morris is one of many Dragons players currently engaged in the hugely successful Graduates of League program with a view to joining the suits in the corporate world once he hangs up the jersey with the famous Red V.

When caught up with Morris he was heading to an afternoon at university discussing the complexities of Finance. It's hardly how most 27-year-olds with a physically-demanding full-time job would choose to spend their time but he knows it's an important part of his career progression.

"With the degree, hopefully I'll find something that I like and go down that path," Morris explained. "All my family are schoolteachers so I didn't want to be a schoolteacher so I've branched off and done something different and hopefully I'll find something that I like.

"Footy doesn't last forever and you've got to do something after it so I wouldn't mind going into the corporate world and hopefully I can find something that I enjoy doing."

It bucks the stereotype that many people have of football clubs but such is the prevalence of university attendees at the Dragons that when time allows they'll squeeze in a study session in between training commitments.

But, like all study groups, there's one player who spends more time copying than studying.

"Mitch Rein's always asking for help; he's a different human, Mitch Rein," Morris revealed. "None of us are outstanding – a few of the older blokes haven't been back to school since they were 18 – so it's been a long time between drinks so we just do our best. Jase Nightingale, he's a pretty switched-on fella, he's probably one of the blokes who I go to when I'm struggling.

"A lot of the guys are doing the same subjects which helps. It's always good to have someone there that you can fall back on if you don't understand the content and we all try to help each other out where we can.

"We get a fair bit of help from the club and the Graduates of League program so the boys who are doing uni are really enjoying it and getting pretty good results."
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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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