After requiring 11 painkilling needles to play with a separated shoulder in the 2002 grand final, former Sydney Roosters fullback Luke Phillips has warned that Cooper Cronk must be mentally as well as physically prepared for the challenge of facing Melbourne on Sunday at ANZ Stadium.
Phillips suffered a fracture and rotator cuff tear during the lead-up to the grand final but managed to take his place in the 30-8 defeat of the Warriors with the aid of painkilling injections in an act of courage which was largely unheralded outside the Roosters camp.
However, he lost movement in his arm during the second half after completely tearing the muscle from the bone and had to ask lock Chris Flannery to stand in the defensive line for him when a scrum was packed.
"I had a slight fracture where the muscle attaches to the bone, I played with the fracture needled in the grand final and what it did was basically pull a big fragment of bone off and shattered it," Phillips told NRL.com.
"Playing fullback, it is not like you are in the front row or having to make 40 tackles in a game. I wouldn't have been able to do it if I was playing in the forwards. I was trying to hide in the second half as much as I could and just do the best I could out the back.
"It was not a big heroic feat like Sam Burgess or John Sattler playing with a broken jaw. I was just a fullback with a broken shoulder out the back. It went unnoticed until afterwards because the Roosters hid it."
Watching Cronk bravely play on to lead the Roosters to victory over South Sydney last Saturday night revived memories for Phillips, who did the same thing after initially suffering the injury while attempting to tackle St George Illawarra centre Mark Gasnier.
While he believes his injury was more like the one which kept Cronulla captain Paul Gallen out of the previous night's match against the Storm, Phillips said Cronk faces a similar battle to prepare himself for the grand final after suffering "severe" damage to the rotator cuff in his left shoulder.
"At the moment it looks like Cooper is in pain, which I was as well, but if they can needle that to get through the pain that helps you mentally," Phillips said. "But if something worse happens then you physically can't use it.
"That is the mental battle he will have to face. If the needle works there is no issue, my problem was that when it actually broke I lost functionality.
"There are two parts of it; the pain and then there is the actual ability to use it. If you look at the ceremony at the stadium, everyone is grabbing the trophy and lifting it up but I couldn't lift it. I had to get (teammate) Peter Cusack to hold it while I put my hand underneath it.
"I ended up having 11 needles to play and another four after the game just to get rid of the pain for the celebrations."
Phillips underwent surgery after the grand final which sidelined him for the following season. After returning in 2004, he suffered knee, back and rib injuries within a short period of time and retired.
He later joined the refereeing ranks and now works as a consultant for St George Illawarra. Phillips was also involved with this year's successful NSW State of Origin team, which was coached by his former Roosters captain Brad Fittler.
Secure a match ticket
A limited amount of tickets are still left to enjoy the 2018 Telstra Premiership NRL Grand Final. Don’t miss your chance to secure your seat via Ticketek HERE
Travelling for the grand final?
You can secure your tickets and travel all in the one place with ‘build your own’ packages still available HERE