Brisbane Broncos hopeful Ed Burns spent so much time in doctors' waiting rooms as a young footballer he decided he may as well have a crack at becoming a doctor himself.
The 20-year-old medical student is a flying centre on a train-and-trial deal at the Broncos after a standout season for Wynnum-Manly in the Intrust Super Cup.
He aims to follow in the footsteps of George Peponis, Martin Raftery and Nathan Gibbs who became doctors after juggling studies and playing in the top grade in the 1970s and 1980s.
After completing his Bachelor of Medical Science undergraduate degree, Burns has finished the first year of a Doctor of Medicine degree at Griffith University, which he juggled with rugby league commitments at Wynnum-Manly.
His goal is to continue his studies and secure an NRL deal, after which he will confront any challenges that arise.
"Then I will speak to Griffith University and the Broncos and see how I can juggle the two the best I can," Burns told NRL.com
"I want to play NRL and push both as far as I can. There will be a crossroad at some point in the future, but right now I want to put myself in a position where I can have the privilege of having that crossroad."
Burns wants to become a doctor because he has a desire to help people, as the medicos did for him when he was a youth.
"I picked up a few knee and wrist injuries when I was younger and spent a fair bit of time in doctors' waiting rooms so I thought it might be a pretty cool thing to do," he said.
"I've always liked science and it is a career I became interested in because it's where I believe I can help the most people, so that all ties together nicely.
"My auntie is a doctor and she has been great to me. Mum's a physio and dad's in law and they've been good as well. They've encouraged me to do what I want – whether it be footy or medicine."
Burns said the timing had "worked out perfectly" for him to join the Broncos' pre-season, a week after his exams finished, with the club prepared to work around any of his future commitments.
"The Broncos and Griffith Uni have been very understanding, as were Wynnum during the year where if I had to miss training for an exam they were always great," he said.
"I go to training and I don't think about study, and I go to uni and don't think about footy."
Burns' father has told him of the outstanding example set by former Australian and Bulldogs captain George Peponis, who juggled the competing demands of medical studies and rugby league.
Dr Peponis spoke to NRL.com from his consulting room at Five Dock in Sydney where he said it would be "great for the game" if Burns could secure an NRL deal while pursuing his studies.
"I wish Ed well and he can be a great role model for the game," Peponis said.
"There is a lot of money in the game now, and deservedly so because players put their bodies on the line, but they need to have a perspective on life apart from football and a career after footy. Ed has to be applauded that he is attempting this.
"When I played there were three of us [studying medicine]… myself and Martin Raftery who played for Cronulla and Nathan Gibbs who was Souths captain, but it was semi-professional back then."
Peponis, who lived at home with his parents 100m from Belmore Oval for most of his footy career, conceded that the challenges ahead for Burns were far greater than he encountered in several respects.
The NRL today is played from Thursday to Sunday and the travel can take players to several states and New Zealand.
"It was basically a Sydney-based competition when I was at uni and the furthest I had to travel was Penrith or Manly, and all the games were played on Saturday and Sunday," Peponis recalled.
"We used to train at 6pm, three nights a week, whereas now most teams train during the day when most of your lectures, practical work and hospital visits are going to be on.
"I wish Ed well but I don't know how he is going to juggle it… because now [the NRL] is fully professional and it is a full-time gig studying for medicine."
As an intern, Peponis had friends at the same hospital he worked at so he would spread out his shifts on weekends in winter, and then back-up in summer when the footy season was over to rectify the balance.
"They are all things Ed will learn along the way if he is successful, that he'll spend half his time Monday morning at the superintendent's office with a secretary that does the rosters," Peponis chuckled.
"I hope he is successful, and I will keep an eye out for him."
I go to training and I don't think about study, and I go to uni and don't think about footy.Ed Burns
Burns, who played some back-row when he was younger, was a fan of Darren Lockyer and Justin Hodges growing up and said he admired the strong ball-running styles of current players Matt Gillett and Corey Oates.
He has learned plenty at Broncos pre-season already.
"Everyone here is trying to improve their craft and being around such a talented and dedicated group makes me want to push myself even further," he said.
Burns has impressed Broncos assistant coach Jason Demetriou with his athleticism and physicality at training but it is his mentality that has stood out.
"I have been very impressed with Ed because he's come in with a great attitude and his attention to detail is very good," Demetriou said.
"He is playing the game because he loves it and not because it is the be-all and end-all in his life and you can see that outlook in the way he trains.
"Ed takes everything in when you give him instructions and applies it quickly. He looks like he's enjoying being part of the Broncos and feels privileged to be here."