Tim Browne and Greg Eastwood celebrate the Bulldogs' preliminary final win over the Panthers.

Browne defies fractured skull to make grand final

Injuries have cruelled Tim Browne’s NRL career since the Bulldogs prop made his debut in 2010.

Plagued by several knee problems throughout his time in the top grade, Browne was restricted to 18 games over the past four seasons, but nobody could've predicted what was to come.

Considering Browne has doubled his career appearances in 2014 alone, an unlikely fractured skull was not the way he expected his personal best NRL campaign to date to pan out.

With skull fractures more likely mentioned in the news due to horrific car accidents, it only took an innocuous bump of teammate Dale Finucane's palm for Browne to reel out of a tackle with the serious injury in the most bizarre of circumstances.

Forced out of the Bulldogs team for 10 weeks, coach Des Hasler was ultimately left lacking size on his bench with Browne's departure. 

Hasler then had no troubles overlooking club veteran Reni Maitua for the returning Raymond Terrace Roosters junior in the Dogs' 18-12 win over the Panthers, with the prop given the all-clear in the week leading into the fixture. 

"I saw the specialist on Monday and he said I was basically at minimal risk and if I held off playing until next week I would be at no risk  but we were happy with the minimal," Browne told NRL.com. 

Despite disliking the strap of the headgear he was forced to wear as a precaution, Browne realised it was for his own good in what was a concerning time for the 26-year-old.

"I wasn't concussed and my nose wasn't bleeding," Browne recalls after suffering the injury against the Tigers in Round 19.

"But as soon as the physio came out and said that I have a hole in my head that's when I knew something was really wrong.

"We went straight to hospital worried about the second-layer of the skull and it being broken because it would have affected the bleeding on the brain but that was okay thankfully."

While limited minutes saw Browne only produce 34 metres and 10 tackles against Penrith in his return, it was a step in the right direction.

With his confidence restored, Browne will now shape up towards a colossal showdown with a huge Rabbitohs pack next weekend. 

"I needed tonight," Browne admitted.

"It was good to get [the return] out of the way and get a game under my belt and to get a bit of confidence back heading into next week."

With his head now reinforced with steel plates for good measure, 80 minutes now separates Browne from the NRL Grand Final.

"I don't even know what to say," an emotional Browne said.

"To play in any grand final at any grade in any code is an achievement but to make an NRL grand final is something beyond anything I can explain. 

"It is unbelievable."