NRL: Injured Friend would do it all again

By Kris Shannon

Friend played 75 minutes and led the team with 53 tackles after breaking his jaw early in the Warriors' 30-20 win over the Broncos. Photo / Getty Images.
Friend played 75 minutes and led the team with 53 tackles after breaking his jaw early in the Warriors' 30-20 win over the Broncos. Photo / Getty Images.

Wounded Warriors hooker Nathan Friend says he will repeat his heroics against Brisbane if given another chance.

Friend played 75 minutes and led the team with 53 tackles after breaking his jaw early in the Warriors' 30-20 win over the Broncos at Mt Smart last weekend - a performance hailed in some quarters but criticised in others.

Despite some questioning the sense in such a display of bravado, Friend didn't hesitate when asked if he would again put his health on the line if something similar were to happen in the future.

"I'd play once again through that," he said. "At the end of the day, we got the victory, so what more do you want?

But Friend offered this caveat, in case anyone was wondering about his masochistic tendencies.

"I probably wouldn't break my jaw again if I could help it."

The 31-year-old, who will be out of action for six weeks after having two plates inserted in his jaw, said a fear his campaign was over kept him on the field after his mouth was left bloodied early in the encounter.

"I've never had a facial injury like this - I wasn't quite sure of how long I would've been out on the sidelines for. I thought it might have been my last game.

"I saw the doctor at halftime and he said, 'it's up to you, everything is structurally okay', and I did have the headgear on and I think that was holding it in place. So I thought, oh well, I'll see how I go. If I get another knock that feels really bad then I'll come off."

Thankfully for the Warriors' defensive rearguard which held out a threatening Brisbane side, the big hit never arrived. Friend admitted he got a few knocks which hurt "a little" but nothing serious enough to force him from the field.

Friend even attempted to play down his feat, saying the club's assertion he played with the injury for 75 minutes was incorrect.

"I think it was about 65 when I looked at the tape, so [I'm] not that tough at all."

Whenever the blow came, it certainly had gruesome results. Friend initially thought he'd lost a tooth in what he called an ordinary tackle, but subsequent examinations revealed it was slightly more severe.

Teammate Jacob Lillyman had the privilege of seeing the damage at halftime and said, when Friend pulled down his lip, "you could see it was cracked down through the gum".

Warriors coach Brian McClennan insisted the coaching staff repeatedly tried to convince Friend to leave the field, all to no avail. The player himself thought one person may have been successful but she was away from the television.

"It's fair to say if Mum was watching the game she'd have been straight on the buzzer."

In a similar vein, Friend wouldn't recommend children follow his example, because his heroics were set in a professional environment replete with a trained medical staff.

With half his face was still numb when he spoke to media almost a week later, Friend described his recovery as "slow and steady" and had no doubt about the worst part of the injury.

"Living without being able to chew food," he said. "I thought it would be one of the easiest injuries I've had. But when you've got to take it through a straw it's not that fun."

And the hooker, in his first year at the club, was already eying a return.

"I'll give myself a couple of weeks off and I'll be fresh and ready to go."

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n1 at 02 Aug 2014 14:32:58 Processing Time: 579ms