The following was written by Gareth Davies, chief sportswriter, Sunday Indy newspaper:
Former Bristol Bears centre Will Hurrell has linked up with National League One side Plymouth Albion to become the Devonians new assistant coach the Indy can reveal
The 30-year-old was forced to hang up his boots earlier this year after suffering a serious head trauma in an away match at his former club Leicester Tigers back in January.
It was revealed in the weeks after his injury that Hurrell had in fact suffered a stroke – a consequence of his whiplash style injury. After consultations with a sports injury specialist, the centre, who also played for Championship teams Coventry and Doncaster during his career, was told that playing rugby could risk in further serious injury.
However, Hurrell is now back involved in rugby circles once more after accepting a role to assist Albion head coach Damian Welch and look after the Brickfields backline.
In a frank and open discussion with the Indy this week, Hurrell explained the horrifying circumstances surrounding his injury before discussing his Albion role.
“Leicester were about five metres out and one of their second rows has gone for a big carry,” Hurrell began. “Me being me, I’ve raced from the line and tried to absolutely muller him, but he stepped at the last minute and I ended up tackling on the wrong side.
“I literally smacked him with my head and shoulder, flew back and hit the floor. Later on, they described it as a whiplash injury but initially, after being on the floor for a few minutes, I got up and tried to shake it off.
“I carried on and in the second half, I just couldn’t speak properly, hear properly or do basic stuff. I went off 10-15 minutes before the game ended and started sweating like I had just got out the shower. I went to one of the doctor’s rooms, was struggling to walk properly and then went to hospital with my mum and dad.
“I didn’t really sleep that well as I stayed in overnight and just threw up for hours on end. However, the next day the doctors came around and said my scan results were back and I was good to go.”
Sadly, Hurrell’s condition didn’t improve as expected although it would be a month until he found out exactly what had happened.
“I went to live with my mum and dad and I just couldn’t carry out basic functions,” he added. “I ended up going back to Bristol for an MRI scan and they told me I had suffered a brain bleed.
“Initially, they said it wasn’t too bad, but I would need to be checked again when the swelling had gone down. When that happened, I was told it was a stroke I had suffered and that the main artery at the back of my brain had ruptured.
“Basically, my brain smashed into the back of my skull and that’s what caused the rupture and then all the issues. The sports specialist then told me my career was done as if I continued the way I play, he said I might be in a wheelchair or not be able to speak.”
Initially, Hurrell said he coped well with this devastating news, but when rugby restarted again post-lockdown, that is when the penny really dropped, with the Leicester born man admitting he went into a ‘mini-meltdown’.
“Having the stroke has really altered how my brain path works and my emotions,” he revealed. “For the first four or five months, I just concentrated on getting better and it didn’t really register just how serious this was and the fact I had lost everything I had worked for since I was 16.
“It really did hit me when the games started again after the lockdown as I was recovering really well at this stage and doing lots of rehab. I went to a sports bar to watch a match with my missus and a couple of mates and it just hit me; everything in one day.
“I was watching the game and I finally realised that I would never be able to play again, and it really hurt me. That was tough and yes, I had a bit of mini-meltdown – there was tears and I did get upset.
“That was the toughest day, but I bounced back really well and very quickly, I got myself into a good routine. Lo and behold, I now have this really good opportunity at Plymouth Albion, and it has put my life back on track.”
Hurrell is not only starting a new chapter in terms of his rugby journey but the centre, who has also represented another of our West Country teams in Bath, will also be heading into the world of recruitment, after starting a business venture with Albion Managing Director Max Venables.
“I’m excited to be moving on and getting into the business world too,” enthused Hurrell. “It is an exciting new chapter and I’m lucky that I’m surrounded by people in a similar position who don’t play rugby anymore either by stopping recently or a long time ago.
“I will still have that rugby togetherness and I will still be massively involved within the sport. I am overly excited about the future and anyone who knows me will tell you that when I’m keen on something, I’m overly obsessive.
“I’m not even due to start yet but I want to come in and see the boys. I want to view games from last season, and I know exactly in my head what I can bring to these lads.
“I have been in a similar situation to some of the Albion lads because I dropped down from the Premiership with Leicester and promotion with London Welsh, to National Two with Stourbridge.
“I, therefore, have experiences ingrained in me that I can pass on to these lads and if they progress, then can move on exactly how I did. That’s what we have said as a management team that we want boys to go onto play in the Premiership and we want to progress as well.
“As a club, we want to get into the Championship, and I feel I have a boatload to offer these lads and the club through the route I have taken.”