Shaun Johnson's message to injured Titan
It was a horrific end to what was his dream to play one game in the NRL but injured Titan Karl Lawton said it was a message he received from Warriors superstar Shaun Johnson post-game that helped to soften the blow.
In a horrible sense of irony Lawton was brought into the Titans team to replace Nathan Davis who suffered a dislocated ankle and broken leg in the Round 16 loss to the Raiders, Lawton suffering the exact same injury six minutes into the second half at Mt Smart Stadium on Saturday.
The 20-year-old's dislocated ankle went back into place whilst still on the field and he was able to return to the Gold Coast with the rest of the team on Sunday rather than staying in New Zealand for surgery.
Lawton was to have further scans on Monday to ascertain the full extent of the injury before going in for surgery but has certainly played his final game of the 2016 season.
With his left leg in a cast, Lawton sported a brave face as he fronted media on Monday morning and said that with his parents in the crowd and a phone call from his brother Kayne in France shortly after full-time, it was a text message from Johnson that surprised him most.
"I just want to thank Shaun Johnson for sending me a message after the game," Lawton said.
"He sent me a message after the game just seeing how I was feeling and whether I was still in New Zealand.
"I thought that was the best thing in the world. I just said that it was a privilege playing against him and all the best for the rest of the season.
"I thought that was just brilliant. A true show of character right there."
In his abbreviated NRL debut Lawton completed his assignment of keeping Warriors centre Solomone Kata in check and took some strong carries, particularly jumping out of dummy-half.
With an ability to play in the halves, at hooker and in the centres Lawton plans to spend his enforced lay-off working on his size and speed so that he can become coach Neil Henry's preferred utility option off the bench next year.
The local junior has endured lengthy stints on the sideline previously with elbow and groin injuries and is determined to bounce back and become a NRL regular in 2017.
"I thought I'd just done ligaments but I looked down at my ankle and it was facing the opposite way so that wasn't the best thing to turn around and look at," Lawton said of the moment he suffered the injury.
"I panicked a bit and actually asked 'Birdy' (Greg Bird) for the green whistle and he was like, 'Man, I don't have it on me.'
"It's been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster for the family and my girlfriend but I'm just stoked I got to play NRL. It's the best thing in the world."
The reduction in interchanges this season has highlighted the value in having a versatile utility option on the bench and Henry does see Lawton as someone who is capable of performing that role next season.
"The positive memory for him and will make him hungry for more first grade was that he was holding his own," Henry said.
"He looked up to speed with the game, had a couple of nice runs and was solid defensively, He's proven that he can do that and he's done it on a short preparation, he didn't play until Round 8.
"He's contracted for next year and he's only 20 years old so we see some real utility value in him. He'll be better and more determined for that run.
"He's adapted to playing in the centres well and he has played hooker and in the halves as well so I think that utility value will put him in good stead moving forward."