Parramatta forward Hipgrave forced to retire at just 24

He did not know it at the time, but Keegan Hipgrave played his last game in the NRL when his head slammed into Gold Coast turf when trying to stop Penrith’s Tevita Pangai jnr in round 25.

Hipgrave announced his immediate retirement from the game on Friday having copped one too many head knocks.

The 24-year-old spent four seasons with the Titans before he joined the Eels this year. He inked an extension for 2022 midway through the season, but made the decision to walk away from the game after seeking extensive medical advice.

Hipgrave suffered three head knocks at the start of 2019 and there were concerns for his health leading into the 2020 campaign. There was even talk of him retiring at that stage of his career.

“Keegan has been a wonderful addition to our club and a very popular member of the team,” Eels general manager of football Mark O’Neill said.

“While it’s a shame his career has prematurely come to an end due to injury, the health and well-being of our players is always our first priority.

Keegan Hipgrave was floored against Penrith in round 25.

“We wish Keegan and his partner Izzy all the best of luck with their future.”

The Eels said in a statement they would continue to support Keegan in his transition into retirement.

Concussion has been a hot topic in rugby league, with Roosters co-captains Boyd Cordner and Jake Friend both forced to end their careers early this year because of head knocks.

Hipgrave played 49 NRL games, was known for his hard running and aggression, and was once famously sin-binned twice in the one game against South Sydney in 2018. Eels coach Brad Arthur was attracted to his no-nonsense, physical approach to the game, Hipgrave revealed last summer.

The Eels are desperate to re-sign a string of big stars, including Clint Gutherson, Reed Mahoney and Junior Paulo, but Hipgrave was on a modest contract and his shock departure will have little bearing on the club’s cap situation.

More to come

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