Canterbury forward Corey Payne has announced his immediate retirement from the NRL to focus on academic and commercial pursuits.
It's unusual for a 28-year-old injury-free professional to walk out on his sporting career.
But then again it's rare for a rugby league player to be named the NSW Young Australian of the Year, like Payne was at the end of 2012.
Payne went within a whisker of winning the overall Young Australian of the Year gong on Australia Day, and seemingly has a world of opportunity at his feet.
Despite playing nearly every match for Canterbury last year including the grand final, Payne decided it was time for him to shift his focus entirely on his bright off-field prospects.
Payne finishes with 131 first grade matches to his name, after debuting with St George Illawarra in 2005.After three seasons with the Dragons, he spent two years at the Wests Tigers before shifting to his junior club Canterbury in 2010.
Payne was the recipient of the Churchill Fellowship last year, which allows him to research and gain experience in his chosen field overseas.
He is also the executive chairman of the Future Direction Network which helps disadvantaged students complete their studies.
Although still young enough and able to continue his rugby league career if he so wished, Payne believes the time is right to set his mind on achieving different goals.
''Growing up as a Bulldogs supporter and a local junior I always dreamt of playing first grade for the club,'' Payne said.
''2013 will be a year where I finish my Master of Commerce at the University of Sydney, complete a Churchill Fellowship, maintain the Future Direction Network which assists disadvantaged students reach their academic potential at university and carry out the responsibilities of being NSW Young Australian of the Year.
''I intend studying for an MBA abroad in 2014 and transition to a business career which I hope is as challenging and rewarding as my rugby league career has been.''
Bulldogs chief executive Todd Greenberg said Payne should be admired for making such a tough call.
''Corey has a very wise head on his shoulders and I admire him for being so open and honest throughout this process,'' said Greenberg.
''He has worked tirelessly on setting up his Future Direction Network and the work he has done with the local community is something that not only he can be proud of but also something that we at the club are very proud of.''
Penrith boss Phil Gould extended his best wishes to Payne on twitter.
''Congratulations to Corey Payne .. Wonderful footy career .. However, his academic achievements are outstanding .. A real success story,'' he said.
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