Newcastle hooker Danny Levi has used the retirement of Knights warhorse Jeremy Smith as inspiration to push through his ongoing back issues this season.
After plenty of false starts, Levi will finally undergo back surgery on Monday to repair a protruding disc which is pushing on a nerve down his leg, an injury he suffered while moving house one week prior to the season commencing.
Levi was booked in almost two months ago originally but a rib injury to fellow hooker Tyler Randell meant the 20-year-old had to delay going under the knife.
With the Knights' preferred specialist away, Levi was placed on an emergency list this week – the opportunity for surgery again failing to arise – which led to him playing his 18th game of the year in Newcastle's 20-point loss to the Gold Coast.
But Levi wouldn't dare complain considering the state of Knights co-captain Jeremy Smith's aging body.
At 36, Smith has constantly pushed through the pain barrier with a knee injury marring his final NRL season.
Levi labelled Smith – who is 16 years his senior – as an inspiration to him.
"Jeremy has had heaps of problems with his knee but if he can keep going then I guess I can too," Levi told NRL.com.
"He's a lot older than me so he's someone I aspire to be like.
"Jeremy is the figure of what we try to stand for at this club. He's so tough. It doesn't matter how he is feeling, he'll go out there and bust his [backside] for you.
"He's body hasn't been right for half the season yet he's still doing his best for us. He'll definitely be missed next year."
With a recovery period of six to 12 weeks, Levi has unfortunately been ruled out of New Zealand's Four Nations campaign at the end of the year.
Levi was 18th man for the Kiwis in May's Trans-Tasman Test against Australia, and while disappointed to miss the tour, he remained hopeful of future chances on the international stage.
"I had to tell the New Zealand management not long ago that I wasn't able to go overseas for the Four Nations. But I guess I'm still young and I'm hopeful I have a lot of years ahead of me," he said.
"I was super happy with myself when I made the squad earlier in the year. It was a foot in the door for me to try and achieve one of my dreams."