'I was one head knock from retirement'
Gold Coast Titans co-captain Nathan Friend has conceded he was one more serious head knock from calling time on his 15-year NRL career and will consult with wife Kelly in the next week as to whether to play on in 2017.
Friend was ruled out of the Titans' Round 4 clash with the Raiders after copping head knocks that forced him from the field in two of the first three games of the season and when he suffered a third shortly after contemplated giving the game away.
The 35-year-old hasn't suffered any further head knocks in the two months since and is feeling no ill effects from concussions earlier in the season but told NRL.com the possibility of retirement has been a regular topic of conversation in the Friend household.
"After the third one I sat at home and had a decent think and a chat to the wife about it and I think if it was to have happened once again it might have been the end," Friend said.
"We spoke about it in depth and went out and played as normal and tried to put it aside.
"With a contact sport you certainly can't hide from head injuries and I've had a fair bit of contact since then and there's been no recurrence so I guess it's just one of those freak things that happen every now and again."
Already juggling his commitments with the Titans with work as a bricklayer/renderer – not to mention his duties as a father to two young boys – Friend is preparing for life after football with a certificate in nutrition.
Whether that next phase of his life starts next year Friend says is a decision he and Kelly are currently grappling with.
"I'm just chatting to the wife about it now and we should hopefully have something done in the next week or two, whether we chat [with the Titans] or give it away," said the veteran of 233 NRL games.
"It's not just an individual decision these days. Once you've got family and kids it's collectively and it will be a tough decision whenever it gets done.
"We're sitting down and sorting it out now and I we decide that's it then so be it. I've just got to be thankful for what I've achieved and everything that league has given me.
"It's not something that's going to happen over dinner but it's something that we need to discuss and then whatever we decide have to get our heads around.
"It is a big decision, this has been my life for 15 years professionally and I've got to provide for the family if I take another path."
Friend admitted not being able to bounce back after a head knock as he had done previously throughout his career with the Broncos, Storm and Warriors became a concern for both he and Kelly.
"She's my No.1 supporter and when that happened for a couple of weeks there… Where once I'd get a head knock and brush it off and be sweet but they do rattle you a little bit," he admitted.
"They were direct blows which you probably don't get every week and it made us sit back and look at the big picture and ask a few questions.
"Since those early days we've had six or seven weeks without any sorts of incidents and I feel fine so not too concerned about that but who knows, maybe those 15 years are starting to catch up with me."