Hull KR have released Andrew Heffernan from his contract and he has returned to Australia to continue his recovery from a long-standing concussion.
The 23-year-old has not played for Rovers since the beginning of April when the latest in a series of concussion injuries forced him from the field in KR’s win over Widnes Vikings.
Specialists have advised Heffernan not to play again this season.
The former Penrith Panthers and Canberra Raiders centre is still experiencing symptoms while training and in day-to-day life and he has now made the decision to return home to Australia and take a break from rugby league to prioritise his health.
On his decision to take a break from the sport, Heffernan said: “Since my last concussion back in April, I’ve seen a number of specialists and I’ve worked through a rehabilitation programme.
“It took a long time to work out exactly what was going wrong but we were able to pinpoint it and we found out that while my brain and cognitive function was working well I had some damage to my vestibular system.
“This continues to give me some symptoms during my day-to-day activities so I’m just working through that at the moment and building up gradually. For a long time there, I was focusing on getting back playing and was probably putting that first, which happens a lot as rugby league players.
“It was a very tough decision but I came to the realisation that I had to focus on my health for this next period, but in terms of the support I’ve had from the club and the fans, it’s been immense and hopefully they can understand why I’ve made this decision.
“It’s been the most difficult injury that I’ve had. I’ve had some shoulders done and other injuries throughout my career, but because it was affecting me day-to-day, and still continues to, it makes it a very difficult injury.
“Globally, I don’t think we have the best understanding of concussion yet, we’re still learning about it and hopefully I can use my experience to help other players moving forward and that’s what I’ve tried to do both at the club and at the RFL.”
Hull KR head coach Tim Sheens has paid tribute to Heffernan for his efforts at the club.
He said: “We are sorry to see Heff leave the club and return home to Australia to be closer to his partner and his family, but we are fully understanding and supportive of his decision.
“Playing alongside Ryan Shaw, he was a big part of our push for promotion last year and deservedly picked up a couple of awards in his first season with us, not just for his on-field performances but also for his work in the community and the way he embraced what it means to be a professional rugby league player at this club.
“At the time of his signing, I spoke about his talent and how a few untimely injuries had probably cost him the opportunity to push through into first-grade back in Australia. Thankfully he’s had the chance to show his abilities with us and I’m sure he will be fondly remembered by the supporters here and everybody who had the pleasure of working with him.
“He’s doing the right thing in prioritising his health and he returns home with our very best wishes for the future.”
Heffernan scored 20 tries in 31 games for the Robins and was named the club’s young player of the year and community clubman in his debut season in 2017.