His own rugby league career is secure in Canberra, but Raiders forward Joel Edwards spent Tuesday night fearing for family in is hometown of Cessnock after a nearby mine collapse killed two men.
Edwards has extended his contract through until the end of 2017 at the Raiders and says he will not change his aggressive approach to the game in his comeback from back-to-back concussions against Melbourne at Canberra Stadium on Sunday.
But deflecting questions on his own welfare, the 25-year-old revealed his immediate concerns were for the community of Cessnock, and in particular his uncle, Craig Hugo.
A contractual fallout with Newcastle in 2012 forced Edwards to abandon the the Knights for the Raiders. While he has found a new home in Canberra, Edwards still has strong family links in the Hunter Valley.
Two miners died after a wall collapsed at the Austar underground coal mine in Paxton on Tuesday night, about 10km south of where Edwards grew up.
Fielding questions about the NRL's stringent concussion rule this season, Edwards said disasters like that put NRL risks into perspective.
“You only have to look in Cessnock there was a coal disaster last night. It [workplace danger] is part and parcel of every job,” Edwards said.
“My uncle works in that mine, I was up last night worrying about him but lucky I got the message this morning to say he’s safe.
“It’s a whole community where everyone’s got to rally around and support two young blokes that have been lost and their families and colleagues. It’s a real country town and I know everyone will be hurting this morning.”
Edwards has played just 27 of his 72 NRL matches in Canberra and had another season to run on his contract, but he and the Raiders were keen to extend his deal early.
Edwards has set his goal to represent NSW Country and contend for Origin in the next three years. It was also long-term ambitions that prevented Edwards taking the field in last weekend's loss to the Knights.
Edwards revealed he'd passed internal concussion tests at the Raiders last week, after suffering consecutive concussions in the previous two matches. He was stretchered off against the Penrith Panthers and the club advised he stand down.
“It’s something that the club and Ricky came to me and said, it was in my best interests,'' Edwards said. "As a player you want to be out there every week. I appreciate the club for standing behind me and not forcing me [to play].”
“I don’t think it was a confidence thing at all, it was more for my welfare and longevity.
“The way I play is the way I play ... I won’t be changing.”
The Raiders have re-signed Edwards and prop Dane Tilse in the past fortnight, with Brett White, utility hooker Josh McCrone and Tom Learoyd-Lahrs the other notable forwards off-contract at the end of the season. Edwards said he'd never considered testing the market.
"There’s a real belief here at the club and I want to be part of it.
“I wanted to firm up my future. Since moving here I’ve looked to develop my footy and under Ricky [Stuart] I see that happening, especially with the squad around here."