Raiders skipper Jarrod Croker says he's likely to miss the first month of the NRL Telstra Premiership season after dislocating his knee cap during the Harvey Norman All Stars match in Newcastle.
The injury occurred midway through the second half, with Croker caught in an awkward tackle near his own line. Replays showed the knee cap popping out of place, and there were fears the points-scoring machine could be out for the season.
"It was pretty painful at first, and being something that I hadn't done before. There was obviously a little bit of shock as well because I didn't know what I'd done," Croker told NRL.com.
"I've done the medial on both knees, so I knew straight away that it wasn't that. My immediate thought was that there was a dislocation or that something had popped out.
"It was quite painful at that stage so there was some initial shock, but once I got on the phone after the game and saw videos of the incident – I didn't really know what had happened in the tackle at the time – I was put at ease because all the ligaments were intact. It was probably the best-case scenario and I know it could have been a lot worse."
The incident sparked an outpouring of support on social media with the rugby league community rallying behind the 26-year-old; something that didn't go unnoticed in the Croker household.
"It's great to have a lot of people concerned about your wellbeing," he said.
"I got a lot of messages of support on social media and I tried to thank everyone I could for that. I was obviously very disappointed with the injury, but I was grateful for the fan support because we wouldn't be here without them and it means a lot to us players to know how much they care."
Thankfully for Croker it wasn't a reoccurrence of the knee injury he picked up in the preliminary final loss to the Storm last year. The initial prognosis is a month on the sidelines but the Raiders skipper said it was too early to make a definitive call.
"It's the same leg but it's a completely different injury," he said.
"I had to wear a leg brace for a week just to stiffen everything up and tighten all the ligaments to stabilise the knee and make sure it doesn't happen again.
"It's out of the knee brace now so I've started to do some rehab work and some physio work and I'm back into the weights and that sort of stuff. It's still a bit swollen and obviously a bit sore, but it's coming along well.
"Round 4 or 5 is the goal at the moment, but to tell you the truth, it's very hard to sit down and map it out when you don't know how it's going to be tomorrow compared to yesterday. The swelling, the ability to work out and stuff like that varies from day to day so it's a bit frustrating at the moment."
For most teams, losing a goal kicker of Croker's calibre would be disastrous but the Green Machine are well stocked with Aiden Sezer waiting in the wings.
Croker, who averages 81.39 per cent accuracy with the boot, said the injury wouldn't hamper his kicking when he returned and revealed Sezer – who kicks at 82.99 per cent – had driven him to new heights since he arrived at the club last season.
"I've got a pretty handy replacement there in Aidan Sezer, but I should be fine to kick when I get back," Croker said.
"He was the reason I upped the ante and took a bit more pride with my goal kicking last year. Knowing how good a kicker he is and knowing that he's hot on my tail if I do manage to slip up definitely drove me."
This article first appeared on NRL.com