Brandon Smith admits he cried at the thought of his season ending prematurely before scans later confirmed he didn’t break his cheekbone.
Smith and winger Josh Addo-Carr both said they would be ready to face Penrith in Saturday’s preliminary final, with co-captain Jesse Bromwich warning they could still take it to another level.
Smith will likely retain his role as the starting hooker, before returning to sniffing the ruck at the lock when Harry Grant takes the stage.
But the story could easily have been so different after a violent clash with Manly’s Josh Aloiai that left him with a severely swollen face in the qualifying final.
“When it happened it hurt, but I didn’t think I broke it,” Smith said.
“But the physiotherapists asked me what the symptoms were and I just said my face was numb. They thought it was a clear sign of a fracture.
“I cried a little in the locker room because they told me he was broken.
“They weren’t good signs but I couldn’t come out (on the sidelines), mope and feel sorry for myself, the team wouldn’t have wanted that.
“I just had to try to stay positive as much as possible and try to have some impact even if I’m not on the pitch.”
Smith joked that his injury wouldn’t have hurt Melbourne as he could easily be replaced by Queensland hooker Grant.
But he is a key cog in a machine that has improved somewhat despite the absence of retired skipper Cameron Smith.
They have enjoyed a record breaking streak of 19 straight wins en route to setting the highest pro and con record in NRL history, racking up 40 or more points in a game 12 times this year, including a 40-12 qualifying final. of Viril.
Saturday will mark their seventh consecutive preliminary final and will play a fifth grand final in six years.
Still, Bromwich believes the omens are good for Melbourne to raise the bar again.
“It will be good to field a full squad in the next game,” said Bromwich.
“I think we haven’t been able to do it for a long time.
“I know a lot of clubs are injured, but being able to name your whole team in a preliminary final is great.
“I can’t wait to see what we can do. I hope we shake him up in the prelims.”
Addo-Carr meanwhile said he was 90% back after a hamstring injury three weeks ago, revealing he never feared his season was over.
His comeback strengthens a baseline that once again pulled fullback Ryan Papenhuyzen and Cameron Munster to his best after overcoming a knee infection.
“The physio feels I’m in a good position right now,” Addo-Carr said.
Associated Australian Press