Afeaki decision pleases Cullen

Date published: April 12 2015

Former All Black full-back Christian Cullen was relieved to see prop Ben Afeaki call time on his playing career due to the effects of concussion.

Cullen, writing in a column for the New Zealand Herald, sighted the fact the impressive tighthead had been suffering for a long time after a collision.

Afeaki, 27, was viewed as one of the world's best scrummagers in his prime but a head knock with team-mate Brodie Retallick in 2014 then led to him being plagued by symptoms of concussion, which ultimately saw him decide to retire.

His Chiefs team this week performed an emotional haka to say goodbye to their prop as a player and Cullen admits he was also upset upon hearing the news.

"It was sad to see Ben Afeaki forced to retire this week, but on another level, it was good to see him make a decision that was all about his physical welfare," he told the newspaper.

"The fact he's still suffering symptoms more than a year after his concussion is an indication of how serious the collision was and how his body is still suffering.

"I met him last year at a business function and he told me a bit about how much he was being affected – headaches, forgetfulness and nausea were constant for him.

"Some people may think it was a hard call for him, but it probably wasn't. You only get one head and you just can't take risks with the brain. Knowing the possible consequences of continuing to play, it probably wasn't a hard choice for Ben to make.

"He's a young man with his life ahead of him and while it's sad he won't be able to pursue the career he wants, he has given himself a chance to recover and take on new challenges."

On his own decision to retire in 2007, Cullen revealed that he initially missed the camaraderie of playing the game.

"I struggled a bit when I decided to retire. It was an easy enough decision to make, as physically I was struggling. I was finding it difficult to get out of bed and off to training each morning. That had become a grind, so I knew it was time," he added.

"I didn't miss training at first, but I did miss the camaraderie of the changing room. I did miss having my mates around me all the time.

"It was the banter I couldn't replace after I retired or the buzz that comes on match day. There was always something special about running out to play in front of a crowd and the emotions that invoked."