St George Illawarra speedster Cody Ramsey has been sidelined for the entirety of 2023 following his ulcerative colitis diagnosis in the lead up to Christmas.
Ramsey has amassed 36 NRL games since his late 2020 debut, crossing for 14 tries in the process as the 'Molong miracle' made the fullback role his own, playing his last dozen first-grade games at the back to finish the season.
The custodian has received medical advice confirming that Ramsey isn't to play rugby league over the next 12 months, ending his 2023 season before it began.
The 22 year-old spent weeks in hospital, undergoing multiple surgeries as he vowed to eventually return to the NRL field.
The illness is often caused by an immune system issue, causing inflammation and ulcers on the digestive tract and bowel.
Ramsey first suffered symptoms whilst undergoing a pre-season 10km circuit, resulting in hospitalisation before the holidays.
While Ramsey was back on the up after returning to training, the club confirmed on Wednesday evening that his season is over.
"Cody was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel condition, in late 2022 which required an extended stay in hospital," Dragons general manager of football Ben Haran said in a statement.
"Unfortunately this ultimately required significant bowel surgery. This surgery was successful, however it will require multiple follow-up procedures over the coming season.
"This means that Cody won't be available to play NRL in the 2023 season.
"Our focus will be on Cody's medical rehabilitation and wellbeing in the first phase.
"From there we'll work towards what future looks like for him.
"He's been in and around training with the players and coaches recently and is having a hugely positive impact on all of us at the club.
"Cody is a great character who is one of the most passionate, popular and respected members of our club and will have a significant impact on the success of the team over the coming season."
Ramsey is contracted for the next two NRL seasons, and the only way for the club to receive salary cap dispensation is for the 22-year-old to medically retire, which isn't looming as likely yet.
Tyrell Sloan is expected to claim the vacant fullback role as the Red V ready themselves for the pre-season challenge, which includes the Charity Shield midway through February.
I would think that for the Dragons the best bet is to medically retire him now: keep paying his salary for 2023 and 2024, and claim the salary cap dispensation, so they can hire someone new.
If Cody recovers, then like Te Marie Martin, he can “unretire” himself.
Having said that, there may be insurance implications (of which I know nothing) which have an impact on the money. Either way, I hope the Dragons keep him around the club for the next couple of years – for his mental health as much as supervision of his physical health.
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