NRL: Warriors players warned about following Friend's example

By Kris Shannon

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

Nathan Friend has had successful surgery on his broken jaw and is facing an uncomplicated recovery - but Warriors doctor John Mayhew warned others off following the hooker's example.

Friend will go down in Warriors' lore after playing 75 minutes with a broken jaw during their clash with Brisbane on Saturday night, leading the side with 53 tackles and inspiring his teammates to hold on to a 30-20 victory.

The Australian was today discharged from hospital in Auckland after having two plates inserted into his jaw. Five X-rays - one of which Friend displayed on social networking site Twitter - confirmed the surgery went well, leaving the 31-year-old facing six weeks' recovery.

While teammates hailed Friend's performance as among the most inspirational they have seen, Mayhew, who spent 15 years as All Blacks doctor, was wary of glorifying his efforts.

"I've been involved with the so-called tough guys,'' he said. "But you've got to be careful about extolling the virtues of this.

In a controlled environment, medically, we were happy it was a safe thing to do and we weren't jeopardising his health.''

Mayhew was loath to compare Friend's bravado with other memorable displays of courage from the likes of Buck Shelford - who refused to let a severe groin injury force him from the field against France in 1986 - as he didn't want athletes outside the professional environment attempting similar feats.

"I think you've got to say you do things at a professional level with a medical staff that you wouldn't want your under-21 team doing.''

The doctor revealed Friend suffered only a minimal amount of pain during the Broncos match, and it was not until after a post-game X-ray that the fracture was confirmed.

"He had a blow to that area and he was sore around that jaw bone area. We certainly thought it was a possibility but he had a reasonable bite and there was not significant bleeding at that stage.

"We said, 'look, this could be the scenario', but he said he could tolerate it with a mouthguard in and his jaw clenched. And obviously he did.''

With the Warriors set for a bye in round 12, Friend should miss only five games while on the sidelines.

"He'll bounce back and it should be an uncomplicated recovery,'' Mayhew said. "But he'll be on a fairly soft diet for the next six weeks.''

Friend today took to Twitter to thank fans for their messages of support and said soup was well and truly on the menu for the foreseeable future.

"Just tucking into my first of many bowls now,'' he said.

The nuggety hooker will be missed in coming weeks, but coach Brian McClennan said after the game his team had already discussed using Friend's performance as motivation when the going gets tough.

Wiping blood from his mouth throughout the match, Friend not only led the Warriors' tackling statistics but also laid on two tries.

"That's probably the most inspirational performance I've ever seen,'' prop Jacob Lillyman said. "At halftime - I thought he'd copped a massive hit in the bottom lip - I asked him how it was, and he pulled his lip down and you could see it was cracked down through the gum.''

Captain Simon Mannering thought Friend's heroics were in the minds of the team during their resolute second-half defensive efforts.

"He wasn't saying anything, just head down and tackling his butt off. It was a massive effort. You had to take on board what he was prepared to do to get the result at the end of the night. As teammates, you definitely respect that and you want to do the same back.''

- APNZ

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