WARRIORS players lauded the courage of "inspirational" teammate Nathan Friend last night after it emerged the "tough as nails" hooker refused to come off during his side's win over Brisbane despite suffering a suspected broken jaw.
Off-season signing Friend appeared to break his jaw early in the gritty contest at Mt Smart Stadium and despite a mouth full of blood, stubbornly insisted on staying on the field.
He was taken to hospital immediately after the match for X-rays but there was no doubting his courage did wonders to inspire the Warriors as they charged to an unlikely victory against a team seeking its seventh straight win.
"You can't look any further for inspiration than Friendy," utility Lewis Brown said. ''That just shows what type of bloke he is and how he didn't want to let the team down. He had the option to come off at half-time but he refused and went back on. Man, he just kept hitting it up all night and he's someone we all look up to. He is as tough as nails and if it is a broken jaw, he's going to be sorely missed in the next few weeks."
One club official said a debate about whether to pull Friend from the field had taken place on the sideline but admitted he had steadfastly refused to budge, reportedly saying: "I'm going to be out for up to six weeks so the last thing I want to do is come off now.''
It was unclear last night how long he would be sidelined.
Warriors captain Simon Mannering, meanwhile, described Friend's actions as "massive" and said he couldn't believe his teammate had continued to run into the line with gusto despite having sustained a brutal injury.
"Throughout most of the first half, he had a lot of blood in his mouth and I think after one of the tries we scored, someone mentioned it," Mannering said. "He wasn't saying anything. He just kept his head down and tackled his butt off. That was a massive effort and we had to take it on board and see what he was prepared to do to get the result at the end of the night. As teammates, we definitely respected that. It was [inspirational] and very tough on his behalf."
Likewise, Warriors coach Brian McClennan spoke glowingly of Friend's toughness - toughness he felt was shown not only by the hooker but the whole team during a gutsy victory.
"We are pretty happy about the fact that we hung tough,'' McClennan said. ''We defended some errors and it was a tough game out there. He [Friend] is a real tough customer and a good call that went out amongst the group [was] that we have to take a hard edge on ourselves and play through tough periods like he has."
Throughout the stuttering start to his team's campaign, McClennan has begged his charges to "respect the ball". After all, nothing frustrates a coach more than watching poor passes get pushed when the pressure's on.
And finally that message seems to have hit home.
In a first half in which the Warriors were dominant, what would have impressed their boss even more than their four converted tries or even Friend's toughness was the way they played. The offloads were absent and their completion rate by the break of 94 per cent put them in what Sky TV pundit Daryl Halligan described as "unchartered territory".
WARRIORS 30 (B Henry S Johnson J Lillyman F Mateo E Taylor tries J Maloney 5 goals) bt BRISBANE 20 (A Glenn J Reed B Te'o S Thaiday tries C Parker 2 goals) at Mt Smart Stadium. Referee: Jason Robinson, Ben Cummins. Crowd: 19,012.