The fear Josh McGuire fights every week
Getting blind-sided by Josh Papalii hurts – it hurts a lot – but it pales in comparison to the fear that Brisbane Broncos lock Josh McGuire plays with every single time he takes the field.
A Queensland and Kangaroos representative, McGuire is an integral part of a Brisbane forward pack pushing for a second grand final in the space of three years but after each game he is grateful for one thing above all others: the ability to be able to see.
It's been more than six years since McGuire suffered an accidental poke in the eye from teammate Mitchell Dodds that he initially thought would see him miss a game or two but almost ended his career.
Since that day and the harrowing surgery and treatment that followed, McGuire has been effectively blind in his left eye and it is the fear of suffering a similar injury to his right eye in the heat of battle and never being able to see his wife and children again that haunts him.
In a revealing column for Players Voice, McGuire speaks openly about the day he lost the use of his left eye, the truth behind allegations he deliberately stepped on the leg of Eels prop Tim Mannah last month and the day when he will lose the eye for good.
It was Round 8, 2011 when McGuire's world was turned on its head and after teaching himself the basics of the game again and overcoming the fear of putting his head where it invariably has to go in a game of rugby league he has gone on to play five tests for Samoa, one for the Kangaroos and eight Origin matches for Queensland, but the thought of losing the vision in his right eye never really goes away.
"I've had the good eye poked in games," McGuire writes. "It makes me think about Maiya and Maxom, my kids, and Tanyssa, my wife, and that fear about not being able to see them again.
"It's a risk I've got to take. I'm grateful every time I come off the field in good nick. It's just the responsibility of being a husband and a parent.
"It's a scary thought and I can't stop it from popping into my head from time-to-time. I guess that's natural when you've lost your left eye to rugby league. You worry that you're one bad hit to the right eye away from being blind."
As he has done since making his debut for the Broncos in 2009 McGuire will line up on Friday night ready to do whatever his team needs to win, only this time it is against the man who coaxed him back onto the field following his injury.
Eight weeks had passed since the fateful incident and with a lengthy injury toll then Broncos coach Anthony Griffin turned to McGuire and asked whether he was ready to play in the NRL again.
"My first training session was rubbish. I couldn't see properly and I was dropping balls all over the place," McGuire recalls.
"I was really worried. I couldn't play footy like this. I was probably lucky I was playing front row because I didn't have to catch long balls or high balls. But even the basics were really difficult.
"I invented a few training drills. Hand-eye coordination stuff. I'd bounce a tennis ball off the wall and try to catch it on my blind side, so I could get used to moving and improve my depth perception.
"I would also close my good eye, then open it quickly and get someone to pass me a ball straight away. That was for reflexes.
"Brisbane were having a bad run with injuries and 'Hook' (Griffin) was about to select his team to play Parramatta that week.
"'If you don't play we're going to have to bring up a Queensland Cup player,' he said to me. 'Do you think you're capable?'
"I had a bit of thinking to do. I just didn't want to embarrass myself or the club. In the end, I put my hand up to play. My only goal was to get through the 80 minutes without dropping a ball or missing a tackle.
"We ended up winning that game at Parramatta Stadium 16-12. Matt Gillett scored the match-winner. I didn't do anything special but I couldn't have been happier.
"I'd made my return within eight weeks, in the top grade and I hadn't stuffed up. My confidence started to build from there."