He did not know it at the time but Knights utility Kurt Mann was nursing a fractured sternum the last time he played against former club St George Illawarra.
That was six weeks ago at McDonald Jones Stadium, when the 26-year-old Queenslander needed two pain-killing injections to take the field.
Mann had suffered the injury in Newcastle’s 17-10 loss to Canberra one week earlier then aggravated it before kick-off against the Dragons.
“I got hit in the warm-up and had to run straight off the field and ran straight back in to have another needle, so I had two needles before we even got out on the field,” Mann told NRL.com.
The injury restricted him to just 14 minutes off the bench in their 13-12 extra-time loss and sidelined him from Newcastle’s next three games against Manly, Gold Coast and Parramatta.
Mann will again require a needle before the rematch against the Dragons at Mudgee on Sunday but, after two games under his belt against the Warriors and Bulldogs, he is breathing a whole lot easier.
“I copped an elbow against Canberra and played the next week against the Dragons with it, and it was pretty sore in that game,” Mann explained.
“I got a scan after that game because I was complaining about how sore it was, and they found out I had a small fracture at the back of it.
“They had to be pretty precautionary with it, because it sits so close to your heart – especially with the fracture being on the back side of it – so I got sent to do a few scans and ECGs, that sort of stuff.
“It was all precautionary but they came back fine, so I had to just wait.”
Understandably, the Knights kept details of Mann’s injury close to their chest.
But he has shown no ill effects coming off the bench in victories over the Warriors and Bulldogs and playing 46 and 23 minutes respectively.
“I’m still getting needled and stuff but I’m pretty sure that everyone who’s had a sternum injury knows what it feels like and they hang around for a while,” he said.
“So this week, it gives me a fair bit more confidence not having that pain.”
Knights coach Nathan Brown signed Mann from the Dragons to mould him into a hooker, and he has spent some time there to relieve Danny Levi, but more recently has played five-eighth and pushed Connor Watson to dummy-half.
In six seasons at the Storm, Dragon and Knights, Mann has now played every position on the field except second-row and front-row but does not mind filling in where required.
“It’s a bit different to what I was doing at the start of the year but that’s footy,” he said.
“I got injured so I missed a fair few weeks with my sternum fracture but I did this at the Dragons for a little bit there, so it’s not something foreign to me.
“At the Dragons I played a fair bit of lock and played on the wing as well.”
Mann has again been named on the bench for the game at Mudgee but is also on standby for Watson and winger Edrick Lee, who have been nursing foot injuries.
“You wouldn’t want to not play with those two blokes,” he said.
“They’re both really good players and our team’s better with them, so I’m sure they’ll be in there somewhere if they’re fit.”
Mann said the Knights, who have a spring in their step after three straight wins, expect the Dragons to come out breathing fire after dropping their past three to the Warriors, Eels and Roosters.
“They’ve been under the pump a little bit in their last three games,” he said.
“They’ve started those games well and been up by 18 in their last two but they haven’t been able to close the game, unfortunately.
“Personally, I know Mary (coach Paul McGregor) is going to be on their case about it and he’s going to have the boys coming out fired up so I’m sure it’s going to be a fair start.
“I think there’s still a long way for us to go. We are looking a lot better than when we kicked off at the start of the year but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.”