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Why Eloni Vunakece wants to donate brain to concussion research


He was the everyday garbage collector who sacrificed the luxury of sleeping in to pursue his dream of playing First Grade rugby league and now Eloni Vunakece has taken on a new challenge.

The cult figure who is currently competing on the Nine Network’s Australian Ninja Warrior after retiring from football late last year due to a string of concussions will donate his brain to concussion research.

Vunakece had suffered up to 15 concussions throughout his career including 10 in the last 12 months which ultimately – after seeking advice from Doctors – prompted him to hang up the boots.

A recent study by researchers from Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, New South Wales Health Pathology and the University of Sydney’s Brain and Mind Centre revealed evidence of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) had been found in the brains of two deceased NRL players.

Vunakece told Halftime that the repeated trauma to the head can have serious effects on your health.

“I’ve put my hand up too,” Vunakece said.

“The more data I guess we can gather around it, hopefully we can put the whole issue to bed.

“We have a great game and great product in rugby league, one of probably the toughest sports in the world.

“Do we dampen it by taking some of the impact out of the game? I don’t know, I don’t think it would make it a better product.

“But we have to protect the players who play it, but what do you risk? What do you lose?”

Vunakece played nine First Grade games for the Roosters and five Tests for Fiji.


Click ‘play’ to hear the full interview below.