Corey Parker's shocking confession amid powerful plea from NRL legend Wally Lewis

The Brisbane Broncos great has come forward with his own struggle.

Corey Parker with his wife.
Corey Parker has laid bare his own struggles. Image: Getty

NRL player-turned-pundit Corey Parker has made the shock admission he has "no doubt" he is suffering symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The brain disorder, which is a form of dementia and can only be properly diagnosed after death, is back in the spotlight this week.

League legend Wally Lewis, who has also been suffering symptoms of probable CTE, spoke on a Dementia Australia panel at Parliament House on Tuesday, and laid bare his struggles over the last few years. The Brisbane Broncos and Queensland Maroons legend went public with his battle last year after a leading doctor said she was "90 per cent sure" he has CTE.

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CTE is caused by repeated head injuries and has become all too commonplace for retired athletes. Late NRL player and coach Paul Green, who died by suicide in 2022, was found to have advanced CTE after his death.

Corey Parker and Michael Ennis in 2017.
Corey Parker and Michael Ennis in commentary for an NRL game in 2017.

And speaking on Tuesday, former Broncos player and Fox Sports analyst Parker revealed his struggles. "This CTE, it's the word that obviously gets thrown around and rightly so, it is real," he said on SEN radio.

"I've got no doubt, I have no doubt whatsoever over my tenure as a rugby league player that I have symptoms, I have symptoms of CTE. But it's something that you can't really get a grasp on until obviously post-mortem. You can try and manage different things, but the damage is done isn't it."

Parker, who played 347 games for the Broncos and 19 State of Origin matches for Queensland, praised the NRL for taking steps to address the issue in recent years. "The game has some accountability to take...from an NRL point of view, I think they're in a really good space at the moment, particularly on a junior level," he said.

"From a senior level, I think at the moment the game has been in a really good spot. You can't expect to play a high-collision sport (and) for 20 of those years at a high level and not have some sort of side effects."

Wally Lewis in 2022.
Wally Lewis poses for a photo with a fan before an NRL game in 2022.

Wally Lewis calls for change amid devastating battle

Lewis called for change on Tuesday, saying there needs to be a shift in the way we view 'toughness' and 'courage' in all levels of sport. "We need to train our kids smarter," he said. "It's not a badge of honour to go back out onto the field with a head injury, it's sheer carelessness."

Parker echoed those sentiments, saying: "We actually looked at it like, 'oh, this guy is so tough'. But there were points in my career where I knew I was concussed, I knew I was dazed and towards the backend of my career, I would actually buy myself time on the ground and grab a shoulder or leg until my head was right to then get to my feet. I knew if I got to my feet I'd stumble, which is definitely not the right way to be thinking."

Lewis represented Queensland 31 times in Origin, winning eight man-of-the-match awards before he was branded an NRL Immortal in 1999. But the 64-year-old's mortality has never been so clear.

"I'm fearful for what my future will look like, so I try not to think too much about it," he said. "We all thought we were 10-feet tall, bulletproof. But for most of us, the reality was that it was causing us the extensive long-term damage (and it was) something that we weren't dealing with."

Readers seeking support and information can contact Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.

with AAP

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