NRL: Broken jaw not enough to move Friend

Nathan Friend played with a broken jaw. Photo / Getty Images
Nathan Friend played with a broken jaw. Photo / Getty Images

Warriors skipper Simon Mannering felt embarrassed coming off late in the game with an injury against the Broncos last night, considering the injury one of his team-mates was carrying.

Hooker Nathan Friend played with a broken jaw for about 75 minutes last night but was still one of the best players on the park. No one really knows how it happened - Friend was carted off to hospital for x-rays soon after the match - and he's now set for an extended spell on the sidelines.

It was one of the reasons he refused to come off. The coaching staff tried to persuade him to quit at halftime but Friend wouldn't have it.

"He said, 'I might not get to play another 40 for a few weeks," Warriors coach Brian McClennan explained. "He's a really tough customer and there was a good call that went out among the group that we have to take that hard edge on and play through those tough periods like he did."

Friend's performance was extraordinary. He made 39 tackles and every one of them must have jolted his jaw.

"Through most of that first half, he had a lot of blood in his mouth," Mannering said. "After one of the tries, it was mentioned. He wasn't saying anything, it was head down and tackling his butt off.

"It's a massive effort. You have to take that on board, what he's prepared to do to get the result at the end of the night. As team-mates, you respect that and want to do the same back.

"I didn't want to come off because Friendy was running around with a broken jaw. I just got a little tweak to my medial [ligament]. They said, 'come off', and I said, 'take Friendy off' but they said he was hanging tough."

Prop Jacob Lillyman got a better view than most of the damage at halftime. It wasn't nearly as bad as the break Sam McKendry endured in last year's Four Nations but it was still cracked.

"That's probably the most inspirational performance I have ever seen," Lillyman said. "I know John Sattler did it once back in the day and he's been talked about for decades. That was unreal by Friendy.

"At halftime, it looked like he had copped a massive hit on his bottom lip. I asked him how he was and he pulled his lip down and you could see it was cracked down the gum. That was one of the most inspirational things I have seen."

McClennan will have a decision on his hands on who to replace him with ahead of next week's game against the Roosters.

Pita Godinet, who played well at halfback against Melbourne 10 days ago, could come into hooker and Lewis Brown, who sometimes fills in there off the bench, is another option.

But Nathan Friend is an 80-minute player, even with a broken jaw.

- APNZ

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