Nathan Murphy during Collingwood's training session at Gosch's Paddock on November 27, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

COLLINGWOOD CEO Craig Kelly insists defender Nathan Murphy is fit to continue his AFL career, saying player welfare is the club's highest priority.

Murphy has suffered numerous concussions during his career, most recently in the Pies' Grand Final triumph in September, but was cleared to keep playing football by an expert concussion medical panel just before Christmas.

Kelly praised Collingwood's medical staff as industry leaders and dismissed any suggestion the club is putting the 24-year-old's health at risk by allowing him to play on.

Craig Kelly (right) embraces Jordan De Goey after Collingwood's win in the 2023 AFL Grand Final. Picture: AFL Photos

"With all the clubs, but with our club, our want to look after our athlete, make sure they're safe, make sure there's a safe working environment, is paramount," Kelly said on Tuesday.

"If anyone says anything different, they just don’t have all the information.

"Ruben Branson, our doctor, is one of the best doctors in Australia in regard to sport, if not the world. The AFL system, the AFL doctors and what we're looking at and learning about this concussion moment in our game, that's happening around the world, is led by amazing doctors.

"The process of what Nathan went through, with his family, with the club, with the coaches, for him to make an informed decision to want to do the job he loves, everything's been done."


Kelly said Murphy's status could change based on future events, but that was the case for all players, including his own son, Essendon defender Jake.

"Does that change from week to week depending on what happens? It does for every player," Kelly said.

"This is a really important point – I can't ask any of you, and wouldn't ask any of you, about your medical history. This is a person's life, so I'm not going to disclose what happens with the conversations with the doctors, with confidential information we share in a very tight group of people.

"All you need to know is the amazing doctors and people have worked with all of us to get an informed decision. You're not privy, and we shouldn't share anything else with you. It's not what we do.

"There's a plan in place for every player in the AFL, in regard to concussion and how we deal with it, depending on the circumstances. My son's had five or six (concussions), he plays for Essendon. It's not much fun for him, or Nathan, or anyone who has it.

"So we have to have circumstances developed for every individual player to look after them. It's no one rule, it's a matter of dealing with the information that we get, when we get it."

Nathan Murphy celebrates Collingwood's 2023 premiership victory. Picture: AFL Photos

Premature retirements due to concussion have become more common in recent years, with Paddy McCartin, Marcus Adams and Paul Seedsman all stepping away from the game last year on medical advice.

Meanwhile, Kelly said the temporary reallocation of Graham Wright's duties will be confirmed shortly, after the Pies footy boss announced he will take an overseas sabbatical from the start of March to September.

"We've gots some things we've been announcing, and it's good, we've got some wonderful people – Brendon Bolton (director of coaching and backs coach), Clare Pettyfor (head of footy ops), we've got Justin Leppitsch (head of strategy and forwards coach), we've got a couple of young, new people in there. I'll put my head in, but not too much.

"It's great for the industry that we've got balance, it's one of the things we spoke to the Commission about yesterday; balance and making sure people like Graham Wright still love the game, and people like Graham Wright can go away, have some time off after being involved in the industry for close on 30 years."